Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eisenhower Research Project | War Costs $4 Trillion

A new report out of Brown University estimates that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--together with the counterinsurgency efforts in Pakistan--will, all told, cost $4 trillion and leave 225,000 dead, both civilians and soldiers. The researchers have deliberately used the lowest estimates for the human cost in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. Many studies have estimated even higher numbers.

They have a great web page. With reports and data analysis for the human, economic, social and political costs, as well as sections on who benefits and alternatives and recommendations.

The group of economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists involved in the project estimated that the cost of caring for the veterans injured in the wars will reach $1 trillion in 30 or 40 years. In estimating the $4 trillion total, they did not take into account the $5.3 billion in reconstruction spending the government has promised Afghanistan, state and local contributions to veteran care, interest payments on war debt, or the costs of Medicare for veterans when they reach 65.

The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, has assessed the federal price tag for the wars at $1.8 trillion through 2021. The report says that is a gross underestimate, predicting that the government has already paid $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion.

The Costs of War Since 2001: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan
Executive Summary
Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
Eisenhower Research Project, June 2011

Highlight of Costs from Reuters

* Congressional war appropriations to Pentagon since 2001: $1.3 trillion
* Additions to Pentagon base budget: $362 billion to $652 billion
* Interest on Pentagon war appropriations: $185 billion
* Veterans' medical claims and disability: $33 billion
* War-related international aid: $74 billion
* Additions to Homeland Security base spending: $401 billion
* Projected obligations for veterans care to 2050: $589 billion to $934 billion
* Social cost veterans and military families to date: $295 billion to $400 billion

Future spending requests:
* 2012 Pentagon war spending: $118 billion
* 2012 foreign aid: $12 billion
* 2013-2015 projected war spending: $168 billion
* 2016-2020 projected war spending: $155 billion

ESTIMATED TOTAL: $3.7 trillion to $4.4 trillion

ADDITIONAL interest payments to 2020: $1 trillion


Afghanistan: 33,877
Iraq: 151,471
Pakistan: 39,127


U.S. military: 6,051
U.S. contractors: 2,300
Iraqi security forces: 9,922
Afghan security forces: 8,756
Pakistani security forces: 3,520
Other allied troops: 1,192
Afghan civilians: 11,700
Iraqi civilians: 125,000
Pakistani civilians and insurgents: 35,600
Afghan insurgents: 10,000
Iraqi army during U.S. invasion: 10,000
Journalists and media workers: 168
Humanitarian workers: 266
TOTAL: 224,475

Ways to Count the Dead | Poem by Persis M. Karim

Ways to Count the Dead

“Keeping track of the Iraqi death toll isn’t the job of the United States,” a student said, “and besides, how would we count the dead?”

Take their limbs strewn about the streets—
multiply by a thousand and one.

Ask everyone in Baghdad who has lost
a brother. Cousin. Sister. Child—to speak
their name in a recorder.

Go to every school, stand
at the front of the class, take roll;
for every empty desk, at least two dead.

Find every shop that sells cigarettes—
ask how many more cartons they’ve sold this year.

Go to the bus station and buy ten tickets—
offer them free to anyone who wants to leave.

Go see the coffin-maker. Ask how much
cedar and pine he’s ordered this month.

The dead don’t require much. They don’t speak
in numbers or tongues, they lie silent

waiting—to be counted.

-Persis M. Karim

Persis M. Karim teaches literature and creative writing at San Jose State University. She is the editor and contributing poet to Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006). Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals including Caesura, Alimentum, Di-verse-city, HeartLodge, and She is currently working on a manuscript of poems, "Ways to Count the Dead".

For more poems visit Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

Named for a tenth-century poet and revolutionary who lived in what is now Iraq, Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad was the center of the city’s intellectual and literary life. It was home to booksellers, stationery stores, antiquarian bookstores, and cafes as famous for the ideas that flowed freely as for their pungent coffee.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

US Drones Kill 21 in Pakistan | New Report on Drone Strikes & legal Obligations (ORG)

Reuters reports that U.S. drones killed at least 21 people in Pakistan's South Waziristan yesterday.

New Report on Legal Obligations

The Oxford Research Group has just released a second report on the use of drones. Much of the energy that sustains this work comes out of the ground-breaking project Recording Casualties. The effort seeks to “build the political will to record details of every single victim of armed conflict worldwide.

Press Release

Drones Don't Allow Hit and Run - If You Use Drones You Must Confirm and Report Who They Killed, Says Legal Team

Key Findings

• There is a legal requirement to identify all casualties that result from any drone use, under any and all circumstances.

• The universal human right which specifies that no-one be "arbitrarily" deprived of his or her life depends upon the identity of the deceased being established, as do reparations or compensation for possible wrongful killing, injury and other offences.

• The responsibility to properly record casualties is a requirement that extends to states who authorise or agree the use of drones, as well as those who launch and control them, but the legal (as well as moral) duty falls most heavily on the latter.

• There is a legal requirement to bury the dead according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged, and this may not be in mass or unmarked graves. The site of burial must be recorded, particularly in the event that further investigation is required.

• A particular characteristic of drone attacks is that efforts to disinter and identify the remains of the deceased may be daunting, as with any high explosive attacks on persons. However, this difficulty in no way absolves parties such as those above from their responsibility to identify all the casualties of drone attacks.

• Another characteristic of drone attacks is that as isolated strikes, rather than part of raging battles, there is no need to delay until the cessation of hostilities before taking measures to search for, collect and evacuate the dead.


The report also provides a set of specific recommendations addressing the current situation in Pakistan and Yemen, where the issue of drone strikes by the United States and the recording of their casualties is of real and practical urgency. According to the report, while legal duties fall upon all the parties mentioned, it is the United States (as the launcher and controller of drones) which has least justification to shirk its responsibilities.

The implications of these findings go well beyond the particularities of these weapons, these countries, and these specific uses. The legal obligations enshrined as they are in international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and domestic law, are binding on all parties at all times in relation to any form of violent killing or injury by any party.

Elaborating on the report's implications, Dr Breau said: States, individually and collectively, need to plan how to work towards conformance with these substantial bodies of law. Members of civil society, particularly those that seek the welfare of the victims of conflict, have a new opportunity to press states towards fulfilling their obligations under law.

This is not asking for the impossible. The killing of Osama Bin Laden suggests the lengths to which states will go to confirm their targets when they believe this to be in their own interest. Had the political stakes in avoiding mistaken or disputed identity not been so high, Bin Laden (and whoever else was in his home) would almost certainly have been typical candidates for a drone attack.

Commenting on the report, Paul Rogers, ORG's Consultant on Global Security and Professor at Bradford University Peace Studies Department, said:

Armed drones are fast becoming the weapons of choice by the United States and its allies in South Asia and the Middle East, yet their use raises major questions about legality which have been very largely ignored. A key and salutary finding of this report is that drone users cannot escape a legal responsibility to expose the human consequences of their attacks. This hugely important and detailed analysis addresses some of the most significant issues involved and deserves the widest coverage, not least in military, legal and political circles.

Click here to view the full report.

Refugees International | Field Report

Lynn Yoshikawa and Matt Pennington assessed the needs of internally displaced people in Afghanistan in May 2011. This is their report. It is powerful testimony to the impact of the surge and the creation of new militia forces called Afghan Local Police (ALP). Simply put, they find Afghans civilians caught in the middle of an intensifying military campaign against a fractured armed insurgency.

Responsible U.S. Transition Must Address Displacement Crisis
Refugees International | Field Report | 28 June 2011

"Despite the U.S. military’s claims of progress, insurgent attacks are up by 50% over last year, and more than 250,000 people have fled their villages in the past two years. U.S. funded and trained militias are only exacerbating this explosive situation…”

"Since January 1, more than 91,000 Afghans have fled their villages – compared with 42,000 over the same time period last year. This is mostly due to international and Afghan forces’ military operations against the Taliban…”

"Although General Petraeus touts local defense initiatives as successfully thwarting the insurgency, the proliferation of militias is increasing insecurity, especially in the north. Many new militias operate under the guise of the U.S./ISAF-backed Afghan Local Police (ALP) initiative. Internally Displaced People (IDPs), government officials, security analysts and humanitarian actors told RI that the expansion of poorly vetted, ill-trained and unsupervised ALP units and irregular militias are a major threat to civilians and stability. These armed groups have allegedly committed abuses including murder, theft, extortion, bribery and intimidation.”

They provide five policy recommendations

“The incoming ISAF commander should issue a directive to all forces under his command to reduce displacement and share information on displacement with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The U.S. Congress should withhold payments to the Afghan Local Police (ALP) program until the Secretary of Defense certifies that adequate recruitment, vetting, discipline and command/control structures have been established, as well as a clear timeframe for the program’s integration into the Afghan National Police.

UNHCR and OCHA should request funding to double their protection and humanitarian affairs officers in critical regional offices to meet growing humanitarian needs.

The UN should immediately appoint an experienced candidate to the Humanitarian Coordinator post.

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) should work with the Afghan government to develop an inter-agency plan to address forced displacement.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gilles Dorronsoro | Impossible Transition

Afghanistan: The Impossible Transition
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (June 2011)

Gilles Dorronsoro lays out the need for a dramatic new U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Arguing that “… Western withdrawal requires a political agreement with the Taliban leadership, which implies abandoning the coalition’s reintegration policy.”

“A combination of two critical problems threatens to undermine the mission of the United States–led coalition in Afghanistan: the failure of the counterinsurgency strategy and a disconnect between political objectives and military operations. If anything, the current strategy is making a political solution less likely, notably because it is antagonizing Pakistan without containing the rise of the armed opposition. That has put the coalition in a paradoxical situation, in which it is being weakened militarily by a non-negotiated and inevitable withdrawal while at the same time alienating potential negotiating partners.”


“The U.S. strategy is hard for the public to understand; in fact, despite ambiguities stemming from varying assessments within the Obama administration, the United States is banking, at least as far as we can see on the ground, on a military victory. Targeted strikes against Taliban fighters are the weapon of choice to destabilize the insurgency and force the fighters to surrender. The “reintegration” program, to which the United States has already allocated some $50 million, represents the institutional cornerstone of this policy. Contrary to what is often said about local and national approaches complementing each other, reintegration is fundamentally contrary to any negotiation process because it assumes the progressive weakening of the insurgency. Likewise, operations in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand must succeed for the coalition to change perceptions in Afghanistan and in the West and to disrupt the Taliban movement in areas where it is strong. Military progress would then allow the coalition to gradually withdraw. This strategy assumes that sufficient time and money have been allocated, which explains why the importance of July 2011—the withdrawal’s scheduled beginning date—is being played down in favor of 2014, the slated end of the transition. In effect, the U.S. army plans to maintain military pressure on the Taliban during the next three years while security responsibilities are transferred to the Afghan army.”

Gilles Dorronsoro, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, is an expert on Afghanistan, Turkey, and South Asia. His research focuses on security and political development in Afghanistan, particularly the role of the International Security Assistance Force, the necessary steps for a viable government in Kabul, and the conditions necessary for withdrawal scenarios.

He is the co-founder and editor of the South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal and the European Journal of Turkish Studies. He is the author of Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present (Columbia University Press, 2005), and La révolution afghane, des communistes aux Taleban (Karthala Publishers 2000), and editor of La Turquie conteste. Régime sécuritaire et mobilizations sociales (Editions du CNRS, 2005).

Jimmy Cliff | Afghanistan | Stop the Wars

Jimmy Cliff sang this at the Glastonbury Festival on 24 June 2011, changing the title of his 1960s anti-war hit Vietnam to Afghanistan. His uncompromising anti-war message was broadcast to a huge TV audience.

From: Stop the War Coalition


Hey, Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan

Yesterday I got a letter from my friend fighting in Afghanistan
And this is what he had to say
"Tell all my friends that I'll be coming home soon
My time'll be up some time in June"
"Don't forget", he said, "To tell my sweet Mary
Her golden lips are sweet as cherry"

And it came from, Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan

It was just the next day his mother got an email
It was addressed from Afghanistan
Now Mistress Brown, she lives in the USA
And this is what they wrote and said
She said "Don't be alarmed", she told her the email said
'But Mistress Brown, your son is dead'

And it came from Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Afghanistan, Afghanistan, hey, Afghanistan
Somebody please stop that war now
In Iraq, in Jerusalem, in Libya, in Syria
In Pakistan, in Sudan
People got to stop the war
People got to stop the war

I remember Vietnam, I remember Vietnam
I remember Vietnam, I remember Vietnam
Somebody stop the war, stop the war, stop the war

Friday, June 24, 2011

Organizing 101 | Windows and Mirrors

Next Friday the Windows and Mirrors exhibit will open in Chicago.

This clip is from the March and April venues in Greensboro NC. It is all about organizing and action. I think you will enjoy it.

Here is the schedule for the rest of this year.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Windows and Mirrors | Indy Opening

On June 3rd the Windows and Mirrors exhibit opened with a first Friday event at Earth House in Indianapolis.

End the War | Action Step

Take a minute to support today’s newsletter.

"Nine years after the 2001 invasion there are 250,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan: 100,000 US troops, 50,000 NATO troops and 100,000 Pentagon paid contractors. These are the highest troop levels yet, with last year having the largest number of civilian casualties since the first year of the war.

The plan President Obama announced last night to remove 33,000 troops by next summer fails to end this war. What is left is a force much larger than when he took office. Leaving these soldiers in place to continue the current strategy prolongs the war."

Sample letter to the editor.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Three of Ten Refugees from Afghanistan

Yesterday was World Refugee Day. The numbers are always shocking. You can click on the chart above to expand.

The UN Refugee Agency* released their annual global trends report for 2010. The report reveals that 43.7 million people are now displaced and that more refugees are stuck in exile for five years or longer than at any time since 2001. The report also finds that four fifths of the world’s refugees being hosted by developing countries.

Top Two Countries

Afghan and Iraqi refugees accounted for almost half of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility worldwide; three out of ten refugees in the world were from Afghanistan (3 million). Afghans were located in 75 different asylum countries. Iraqis were the second largest refugee group, with 1.7 million people located primarily in neighboring countries.

Top Three Countries Hosting Refugee

Pakistan was host to the largest number of refugees worldwide (1.9 million), followed by the Islamic Republic of Iran (1.1 million) and the Syrian Arab Republic (1 million; Government estimate).

60 Years and still counting…
Global Trends 2010
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

*NOTE: Palestinian refugees and the countries that host them are not included in this report. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some 4.8 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory. Palestinian are the only refugee community in the world not included in the work of UNHCR.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Talking to the Taliban | Thomas Ruttig

Always the Unintended Suffer War, Abby Karish, Sarasota, FL.

From the travelling mural exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan.

Thomas Ruttig looks at Saturday’s speech by Hamid Karzai on talking to the Taliban (T2T).

On Sunday defense secretary Robert Gates for the first time confirmed that the US and other foreign powers were involved with ‘outreach’ talks with the Taliban.

Andrew Lebovich has a summary.

The postscript deals with demands the government of Afghanistan has before they would agree to any Afghan-US agreement for a long-term presence of US troops and bases.

It is even not clear whether every actor involved in the T2T drama really wants peace: The US military continues to try crushing the Taleban militarily and possibly to avoid substantial talks. The Taleban have started their own kill campaign of key Afghan security forces leaders, particularly of Northern provenience. (Not much ‘capture‘ here, except for non-famous people, in order to intimidate.) Taking yesterday’s attack in the centre of Kabul into consideration, it also does not speak of any will for peace – or of an inability to control some hawkish ‘faction‘, or of the famous ‘hidden hand’ that doesn’t want to have talks outside its control. In that case, someone should have another word with Islamabad.

And whether the President himself wants to share power and access to the Western resources as long as they are flowing (and some will continue to flow also after 2014) one can only doubt. The business networks around his brothers make profit most when the status quo is kept: a not-too-intensive war without complete state breakdown. Talks (about talks) as delaying tactics? That wouldn’t be new in world history.”

Regarding a long-term US-Afghan Agreement

“… [H]e also spelled out his conditions for signing the Afghan-US strategic agreement. He said he has stopped thanking the foreign troops for what they were doing for his country (and that it was only Spanta who always forced him to do so), that the foreign troops used weapons that threaten Afghans’ health and Afghanistan’s environment, criticised NATO's campaign in Libya, warned that he would boycott the Bonn 2 conference in December if the Taleban were not there and reproved the listening youth against 'Westernisation'. He did not elaborate: Was he against the use of mobile phones, watching Indian ‘un-Islamic’ soap operas or other bad influences of Western democracy? In any case, this part not only caused the ulema sitting in the first row to applaud but also the otherwise indifferently listening young people.”

Drone Strikes Kill 12 in Kurram | Pakistan

Pakistani officials report that 12 people were killed earlier today in drone strikes. The targeted killings took place in a region of the country that until now had not been attacked very often.

The New York Times also runs an investigative piece on the new generation of drones – and other mechanized weapons and spying systems.

“The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined.

“It’s a growth market,” said Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Global Day of Listening | 18-19 June 2011

Global Day of Listening
June 18-19*, 2011
(* 8:00 pm June 18 - 8:00 pm June 19 Eastern USA time)

Make time this weekend to be a part of the next global listening project. The last one was held in March. The schedule is open and dynamic. Designed for you to join for hours or stay for minutes.

It’s an opportunity engage with ordinary people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries.

To hear their stories.

Don’t be intimidated. The vision is to bring people together in order to strengthen our strategies for nonviolent social change.

The home page has the schedule of activities and the call-in numbers to join this inspiring community.

Here is the schedule by themes, speakers, and times.

Here is how you can get connected.

You will hear testimonies from Iraqis working with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams, Afghans sharing their experiences of community building and nonviolent resistance, Palestinians testifying to strategies to end the occupation, and Egyptians working to build a brighter future. There will also be updates from peace activists from around the world seeking to end their government’s roles in the violence.

These stories, these testimonies, and these lives are why we work to end the wars.

Make time this weekend to be inspired.

Here are some links to the incredible groups that will be featured.

Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (blog)
Afghans for Peace (Facebook)
Iraqi & American Reconciliation Project

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sizable and Sustained

Yesterday 27 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging a sizable and sustained withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan beginning next month. Nearly half the Senate Democratic Conference, including 10 committee chairmen signed the letter.

Sizable and sustained should also define the support international institutions and governments commit to help Afghans repair an education system battered from decades of war.

While officials hail progress on education vast challenges remain. Only half the country’s schools have the premises and teaching materials they need.

This story, Afghan Schools Short on Buildings and Books is about Kapisa, a province northeast of Kabul. The reporter, Maiwand Safi, has been trained by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

“The deputy director of education in Kapisa, Abdul Rasul Safi, told IWPR that 78 of the 212 schools in the province had no premises of any kind.”


"When a Soviet-backed administration was in power in the 1980s, mujahedin groups often targeted schools that they believed were nests of communist ideology. Their capture of Kabul in 1992 produced an internecine conflict in which schools were looted and commandeered. Then came the Taleban, who allowed schools to reopen, but just for boys, and prescribed only a loose curriculum based largely around Islam.

Since 2001, international donors have injected large amounts of money into construction programmes, so that the education ministry now says that half the 14,100 schools in Afghanistan have the premises, laboratories, libraries and teaching materials and equipment they need.

Afghans flocked to send their children to school as soon as it became to be possible, although boys still out number girls six to four on the school rolls. But many feel let down by the continuing shortage of textbooks, trained and motivated teachers and basic classroom facilities.

Education ministry spokesman Abdul Sabur Ghofrani argues that while a great deal of progress has been made, the government cannot do everything at once.

With 7,000 schools still lacking buildings, he said, “The education ministry is using its development budget to build premises for 1,000 schools a year, and will continue to address this problem.”

One success highlighted is the growth of the teacher-training colleges. Addressed in a previous post from Zaher Wahab entitled Dispatch from Afghanistan | Ray’s of Hope.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pakistan the Model | Strikes Kill 15 in Waziristan - New Air Base to Target Yemen

According to the Voice of America, Pakistani intelligence officials report three CIA-run drone strikes have killed 15. This is a long established pattern.

The Long War Journal has links to yesterday's Wall Street Journal article spelling out a new CIA strategy to destroy al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula using Pakistan as the model. They would rely on unmanned Predator and Reaper strike aircraft.

The new CIA drone program will initially focus on collecting intelligence to share with the military, officials said. As the intelligence base for the program grows, it will expand into a targeted killing program like the current operation in Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press was reporting on the building a secret air base to launch drone strikes into Yemen.

The United States is building a secret CIA air base in the Persian Gulf region to target terrorists in Yemen, preparing for the possibility that an anti-American faction may take over Yemen and ban U.S. forces from hunting a lethal al-Qaida faction there…”

General Petraeus, the current commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan is currently in Washington to hand-deliver the military proposal for the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan next month to the President.

He will face Senate confirmation next week for his new job as CIA director.

When it was announced in April that Mr. Panetta would leave the CIA to head the Department of Defense and General Petraeus would take over as head of the CIA a pattern was emerging. Here is what the NYT’s had to say.

"As C.I.A. director, Mr. Panetta hastened the transformation of the spy agency into a paramilitary organization, overseeing a sharp escalation of the C.I.A.’s bombing campaign in Pakistan using armed drone aircraft, and an increase in the number of secret bases and covert operatives in remote parts of Afghanistan.

General Petraeus, meanwhile, has aggressively pushed the military deeper into the C.I.A.’s turf, using Special Operations troops and private security contractors to conduct secret intelligence missions. As commander of the United States Central Command in September 2009, he also signed a classified order authorizing American Special Operations troops to collect intelligence in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and other places outside of traditional war zones.

The result is that American military and intelligence operatives are at times virtually indistinguishable from each other as they carry out classified operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. Some members of Congress have complained that this new way of war allows for scant debate about the scope and scale of military operations. In fact, the American spy and military agencies operate in such secrecy now that it is often hard to come by specific information about the American role in major missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya and Yemen."

Dispatch From Afghanistan | Rays of Hope

Zaher Wahab | Kabul | 11 June 2011

The role of education and Afghan strategies to strengthen institutions that support that right is a critical challenge: one that enjoys enormous popular support across the country.

Zaher Wahab, an Afghan professor who teaches at Lewis and Clark College in Portland spends four months each year working in Kabul.

This is the final dispatch for this year

Hope Against Hopelessness

Afghanistan evokes a litany of negatives in one’s mind such as: endless wars, brutal occupations, corruption, drugs, failed-state, fragile-state, narco-state, mafiocracy, crime syndicates, Blackwater, Drones, Predators, F16s, Human Terrain Teams, Female Engagement Teams, NGO’s, waste, fraud Chinook helicopters, psychological warfare, special operations forcer, night-raids, collateral damage, anguish ,treason, betrayals, Paetreaus, Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bagram, black holes, ,extreme poverty, child abuse, improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, Taliban, NATO, crime and criminality, disaster capitalism, war profiteers, nepotism, the oppression of women, child labor, kill teams, white phosphorous, injustice, impunity, cultural invasion, deadly pollution, depleted uranium, traffic jams, amputees, countless beggars, child workers, economic invasion, child marriage, high suicide among young women, sectarianism, foreign subversion, lies, deception, and more.

Ray of Hope

But, here and there, there are signs of hope. For the last five years, I have been teaching in a master’s degree faculty development program designed to upgrade the knowledge, pedagogic skills, and professional dispositions of teacher education instructors from Afghanistan’s 18 four –year teacher training colleges. The program is funded by the US Agency for International Development, and implemented by the University of Massachusetts. The program is competitive and selective, and it maintains fairly high academic-professional standards. Each cohort consists of 11 men and 11 women, ages 24-43, representing the diversity in the country. We have graduated two cohorts thus far, and are currently working with two groups. Naturally, people come from different backgrounds, having amazing, diverse and/or tragic histories. Some have never been to the capital Kabul. Most have not touched a computer, and have never been on a plane. Some encounter academic difficulties. Many of the women have never sat next to a strange man, or spoken to one. Travel throught the country is fraught with danger. All are caught in Afghanistan’s endless civil, ethnic, sectarian, urban-rural, and/or imperialist wars and turmoil. Several have been touched by the country’s 35-year turmoil directly. All have been traumatized in one way or other. Most have families who must survive on $300 per month. Group members initially harbor fear, anxiety, uncertainty, suspicion, rivalries and distrust about each other. They feel overwhelmed, hopeless and angry about the condition of their wretched country.

But I have been amazed at the personal-professional progress, change and even transformation, among the participants. By the end of the four–semester program, they cooperate, help, respect, trust, like, and seek each other in academic-professional-personal matters. They overcome their fear, stereotypes, prejudices, distrust, sectarianism and identity politics. They begin to coalesce as a professional group and as one people, and talk about the country, the nation and their common humanity. Hardly anyone is ever late or absent; they do not take breaks; and they never whine about the academic rigor or the heavy work-load.They work very hard. By the end of the program, they develop excellent academic-intellectual skills. And they develop professional identities, and a sense of the teaching profession and its educational, sociopolitical, economic, cultural, and ethical role and responsibility toward their students and the ravaged country.

They are angry and impatient at the catastrophic conditions of the war-torn country, and they are determined to struggle for change, starting with education and the teaching profession. Group three has started to organize a professional network of all the program participants and graduates, with the intent of establishing an association in the future. The fourth group just developed the following code of conduct for all teachers and professors in Afghanistan.

These men and women are energized, motivated, inspired, empowered, and committed to work for educational-social change. The network idea and this code of ethics* are a start. The total cost of putting one cohort through the program is probably one million dollars, equal to keeping one American soldier for a year in Afghanistan.

Think about it!

*Professional Code of Ethics for University Professors

Commitment to the profession
Honesty in fulfilling one’s duties
Accepting responsibility
Upholding ethical principles
Free of prejudices and discrimination
Practicing social justice
Diligence in work
Learning from experienced professional mentors
Being trustworthy and virtuous
Striving for self- development and the students growth
Being insightful and perceptive
Receptive to feedback and criticism
Possessing the necessary skills to utilize current technology
Belief in and practicing Islam, valuing religious precepts
Respect for human dignity
Preserving one’s academic – intellectual freedom
Being warm, friendly and congenial
Taking care of and preserving one’s intellectual property
Cooperation with fellow colleagues and the administration
Strict observance of ethical code in conducting research
Respecting /observing individual differences in all of our Professional activities
Cultivating /Fostering ethics/ and morality in our students/ Observing complete impartiality in dealing with students: Doing our best for the preservation of a healthy environment
Preserving our national and professional identity
Understanding, respecting, accepting and tolerating each other
Respect for human and animal lights and the rights of nature
Being an informed, active, responsible and good citizen
Selflessness and self-sacrifice
Free from any and all addiction
Not exploiting others in any way, or wheeling and dealing
Respecting other points of view
Having moral – civic courage
Having self-confidence
Modesty, humility and tolerance
Having a vision and hope
Respecting students as human beings
Delivering the agreed upon curriculum as best as possible
Taking into account individual differences among Students based on gender, race, religion, culture, Language, geography, and class
Being fair and just in grading, advising, counseling, calling on students, and leading discussions
Maintaining strict confidentiality regarding grades and other student- related matters
Not taking sides in discussions among students
Not giving into nepotism or any pressure in grading students and other matters
Strict voidance of any form of sexual harassment and/or exploitation of students
Maintaining strict academic – intellectual honesty and integrity in research and scholarship

Additional Resource:
Running on Empty: International Education Gets Deep Cuts

Although education reform is a hallmark of the Obama presidency, we have just witnessed the largest cuts ever to the US Department of Education’s international education programs. In 2009, Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced Race to the Top. A $4.3 billion program, it is one of the largest and most expensive education programs in US history. A central goal of Race to the Top is to “prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy.” Apparently, study abroad and foreign language training isn’t deemed essential for such preparation. In recent days, stunned students and faculty across American universities learned that some of the most cherished international education programs will receive zero funding in FY 2011; others will be greatly diminished by huge budget cuts. The culprit isn’t just Congress, but the Obama administration itself.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Earth | Partaw Naderi


The earth opens her warm arms
to embrace me
The earth is my mother
She understands the sorrow
of my wandering

My wandering
is an old crow
that conquers
the very top of an aspen
a thousand times a day

Perhaps life is a crow
that each dawn
dips its blackened beak
in the holy well of the sun

Perhaps life is a crow
that takes flight with Satan’s wings

Perhaps life is Satan himself
awakening a wicked man to murder

Perhaps life is the grief-stricken earth
who has opened up her bloodied arms to me

And here I give thanks
on the brink of ‘victory’

By Partaw Naderi

*Translated by Sarah Maguire for the VOICES | Education Project

Partaw Naderi was born in Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan, in 1953. Steeped in the rich traditions of Persian poetry, his bold innovations have led him to be regarded as one of the leading modernist poets in Afghanistan. He studied in his birthplace and graduated from the Faculty of Sciences at Kabul University in 1354 [1976]. He was imprisoned in the notorious Pul-e-Charki prison by the Soviet-backed regime for three years in the 1970s shortly after he’d begun to write poetry. He is now widely regarded as one of the leading modernist poets in Afghanistan, the lyrical intensity of his work coupled with his bold use of free verse distinguishing him as a highly original and important poet. After years in exile he recently returned to live in Kabul where he is president of Afghan PEN.

Like a Desert Flower | Poetry

Like a desert flower waiting for rain,
like a river-bank thirsting for the touch of pitchers,
like the dawn
longing for light;
and like a house,
like a house in ruins for want of a woman -
the exhausted ones of our times
need a moment to breathe,
need a moment to sleep,
in the arms of peace, in the arms of peace.

by Parween Faiz Zadah Malaal

Parween Faiz Zadah Malaal, born in 1957 in southern Afghanistan, began her career by writing for Tolo-e-Afghan, the daily paper in Kandahar. She also worked for Radio Afghanistan. She recently moved to Peshawar, where she has published short stories and three collections of poetry.

*From the Poetry Translation Centre.

The original Da Khazaan Tilayee Ploona (The Golden Footsteps of Autumn), published in Peshawar

Afghanistan-U.S. Talks on Troops | Bases

Jason Burke writing for the Guardian in Kabul reports that talks will resume later this month around a strategic partnership allowing a long-term presence of U.S. troops and bases. The US wants to conclude an agreement before President Obama makes his announcement about the initial drawdown of troops to start in July. His article is entitled "Secret US and Afghanistan talks could see troops stay for decades."

The Afghan negotiating team wants to bring any agreement or principles of an agreement to a Loya Jirga. Many believe the on-going presence of US troops would prevent a political settlement to end the conflict with the Taliban.

“The Afghans rejected the Americans' first draft of a strategic partnership agreement in its entirety, preferring to draft their own proposal. This was submitted to Washington two weeks ago. The US draft was "vaguely formulated", one Afghan official told the Guardian.”

There are three key points of contention.

1) A request from the current government for fighter aircraft
2) A prohibition on US forces to attack surrounding countries
3) That US forces be subject to Afghan law. No immunity

"One is whether the Americans will equip an Afghan air force. Karzai is understood to have asked for fully capable modern combat jet aircraft. This has been ruled out by the Americans on grounds of cost and fear of destabilising the region.

Another is the question of US troops launching operations outside Afghanistan from bases in the country. From Afghanistan, American military power could easily be deployed into Iran or Pakistan post-2014. Helicopters took off from Afghanistan for the recent raid which killed Osama bin Laden.

"We will never allow Afghan soil to be used [for operations] against a third party," said Spanta, Afghanistan's national security adviser.

A third contentious issue is the legal basis on which troops might remain. Afghan officials are keen that any foreign forces in their country are subject to their laws. The Afghans also want to have ultimate authority over foreign troops' use and deployment.

"There should be no parallel decision-making structures ... All has to be in accordance with our sovereignty and constitution," Spanta said."

For good measure, officials have confirmed that all options are on the table.

“American officials admit that although Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, recently said Washington did not want any "permanent" bases in Afghanistan, her phrasing allows a variety of possible arrangements.

"There are US troops in various countries for some considerable lengths of time which are not there permanently," a US official told the Guardian.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Durable Peace | Afghan Perspectives

Achieving Durable Peace: Afghan Perspectives on a Peace Process
Hamish Nixon, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) | May 2011

This is a great resource to spend some time with. Especially if you are interested in what Afghans are saying. Here is a flavor from chapter five - Getting to a Settlement: Issues of Process.

The US role, or “You cannot be half-pregnant”

"As the major financial and military supporter of the Afghan government and a belligerent, the US will have to participate in negotiations. Until the US clearly signals its willingness to take part in a peace process, not just support it in the abstract, insurgents and other Afghan constituencies will not take such a process seriously"...

- Voices -

The US Role in a Negotiation

"America has vital role in these peace talks. Since America is paying for all expenses, America controls ground and air of Afghanistan, so America is in front line of these talks – Jamiat politician and Wolesi Jirga member

The Afghan government is under the financial support of US. ANA, ANP and NDS are all supported by the US. America is right now fighting Taliban, so how can you ignore the American’s role? It would be very good if these peace talks are between Taliban and US. – Former Taliban official

US should speak directly to insurgents, they should not wait or rely on the Afghan government to take the lead or deliver peace…The US and Europeans seems to be the only parties to the conflict that might want peace…Karzai is not interested in peace, his political survival is tied to the US and NATO presence and the conflict against Taliban…His allies are also not interested in peace, they are happy for US and NATO to continue to fight their former enemies…Taliban are not interested in peace, they are waiting for international forces to leave so they can take power. – Journalist

The biggest role of America and Europe during these peace talks will be to support the start of these talks…Without America and Europe’s cooperation, these talks will be impossible…And in second part, whatever decisions are made in these talks, US and international community should support the decisions and ratify them. – Wolesi Jirga member from southeastern province

They have to assure us that they wouldn’t interfere if we agree on something. What the west likes about peace talks is not acceptable for Afghans. I emphasize the west should support Afghans and Afghan government in these peace talks. They shouldn’t teach us how we should do it. – Former Wolesi Jirga member from Kuchi constituency"

* This PRIO Paper is the first publication of a joint project by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) on achieving a durable peace in Afghanistan, funded by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

3 Cents on the Dollar

"Our truth is an ancient one; that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden." - Quaker Peace Testimony

Yesterday the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations committee issued a report Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan. The two-year study painted a picture of poor planning and inefficiency.

Here is what they want you to know.

“Today, the United States spends more on foreign aid in Afghanistan than in any other country, including Iraq.”

“The State Department and USAID spend $320 million a month on foreign aid in Afghanistan.”

$320 million a month is a lot of money. However, compared to the money the U.S. military spends each month in Afghanistan ($10 billion) is translates to 3 cents on the dollar.

3 Cents on the Dollar

It’s no wonder the State Department continues to abandon needs based goals, benchmarks and expectations as they focus on supporting the military strategy.

Our strategy is ‘‘far from an exercise in nation-building’’ because it aims ‘‘to achieve realistic progress in critical areas’’ and is aligned with our security objectives.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (from the report)

The U.S. goal in Afghanistan was merely to help the Afghans create a “good-enough government,” not necessarily a model democracy. “We’re not out to, clearly, create a shining city on a hill…”
- Ryan C. Crocker (nominee for Ambassador to Afghanistan) in Senate confirmation hearings yesterday (8 June 2011)

The key point in the report is a World Bank estimate that “97 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from spending related to the international military and donor community presence.”

The government of Afghanistan has annual revenues of roughly $2.5 billion. Roughly what we spend in one week on the war.

It’s an unimaginable level of influence that can create dependence. One example is the pressure to create an Afghan security apparatus in the image of an occupation force. A strategy that will make Afghan-led efforts towards security based of dialogue, disarmament, and reconciliation more difficult.

The report rightly warns of this dependence

“These are daunting tasks. Analysts estimate that it could cost between $6 and $8 billion a year alone to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces, depending on the final size of the force. Without significant domestic revenue generation, the Afghan state will not be self-sufficient for decades and donors, particularly the United States, will have to bear the costs.”

Additional Resources:

Robert Dreyfuss has a nice summary on his blog

'Economic Depression' Looms in Afghanistan (Al Jazeera)

Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan

Report of the Majority Staff
Rep. John F. Tierney, Chair
Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
June 2010

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Drone Strikes Kill 20 in Pakistan

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports more than 20 people killed after midnight drone strikes in Pakistan. The US has already carried out six strikes this month. Five of the six strikes have taken place in South Waziristan.

The continued attacks highlight a split in the Obama administration over the Central Intelligence Agency's targeted-killing program.

And this from Voice of America.

"Wednesday's strikes came two days after U.S. missiles killed 18 militants in nearby South Waziristan. The United States has said the semi-autonomous region of northwest Pakistan is the headquarters of al-Qaida and Taliban militants leading the fight against the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan.

The United States does not officially confirm the Predator drone strikes, which are hugely unpopular among Pakistanis. But the CIA and the U.S. military are the only forces deploying the unmanned aircraft in the region. U.S. officials say the missile strikes have severely weakened al-Qaida's leadership.

The Pakistani parliament approved a resolution demanding the end of the missile strikes, but the U.S. has ignored it."

Air War Continues Despite Karzai Appeal

Last June, while teaching in Kabul, Professor Zaher Wahab (Lewis & Clark College) asked Afghan High School students – boys and girls – to draw pictures of their experience with war.

The powerful images have been incorporated into the traveling mural exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan.

This is one of the drawings. Click here to see a slideshow with all of the drawings.

If they [NATO] continue their attacks on our houses, then their presence will change from a force that is fighting against terrorism to a force that is fighting against the people of Afghanistan…. And in that case, history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and with occupiers.” – President Karzai

Noah Shachtman documents the continued NATO bombing following the announcement last week banning airstrikes on Afghan homes after US war planes killed civilians in consecutive strikes.

NATO’s response to Karzai’s threat has been to launch 12 airstrikes a day, a slight increase in the rate of attack runs that coalition planes have typically flown this year. NATO aircraft fired their weapons on 48 sorties in the four days following Karzai’s pronouncement, according to U.S. military statistics. 31 of those attack flights came last Friday, June 3.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Woman Among Warlords | Malalai Joya

Peace is not something you wish for. It’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” - Robert Fulgham

Malalai Joya was recently on a US tour to promote the paperback release of her popular memoir A Woman Among Warlords. She also was here to speak out against the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. She is a principled activist with no filter. No one escapes her direct assessment. I was thrilled to be involved with and meet her during the Philadelphia leg of the tour.

Review from Goodreads.

A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice

"Malalai Joya has been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan." At a constitutional assembly in Kabul in 2003, she stood up and denounced her country's powerful NATO-backed warlords. She was twenty-five years old. Two years later, she became the youngest person elected to Afghanistan's new Parliament. In 2007, she was suspended from Parliament for her persistent criticism of the warlords and drug barons and their cronies. She has survived four assassination attempts to date, is accompanied at all times by armed guards, and sleeps only in safe houses.

Often compared to democratic leaders such as Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, this extraordinary young woman was raised in the refugee camps of Iran and Pakistan. Inspired in part by her father's activism, Malalai became a teacher in secret girls' schools, holding classes in a series of basements. She hid her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn't find them. She also helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province of Farah. The endless wars of Afghanistan have created a generation of children without parents. Like so many others who have lost people they care about, Malalai lost one of her orphans when the girl's family members sold her into marriage.

While many have talked about the serious plight of women in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya takes us inside the country and shows us the desperate day-to-day situations these remarkable people face at every turn. She recounts some of the many acts of rebellion that are helping to change the country -- the women who bravely take to the streets in peaceful protest against their oppression; the men who step forward and claim "I am her mahram," so the fundamentalists won't punish a woman for walking alone; and the families that give their basements as classrooms for female students.

A controversial political figure in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Malalai Joya is a hero for our times, a young woman who refused to be silent, a young woman committed to making a difference in the world, no matter the cost."

To learn more about her U.S. tour, click here.

Letters to My Daughters | Fawzia Koofi

Feminist theory broke ground around a fundamental point that is so well accepted it is practically gospel. It’s that the personal is political.

It helped changed the way we think - preparing us to accept the voices of Afghans as best suited to explain their condition. Whether from elite families or unknowns, some of the most powerful voices you will find about the impact of the wars in Afghanistan are women.

By sharing their experience, strength and hope we can better understand the violence that has plagued Afghanistan for so long. This review by Licia Corbella speaks plainly. It is the women of Afghanistan - witnessed in this memoir - that will change their future.

Kawzia Koofi is currently on a visit to Ottawa.

One woman's quest to save Afghanistan
Koofi's tenacity an inspiration the world over

By Licia Corbella, Postmedia News June 6, 2011

""Even the day I was born, I was supposed to die." Thus begins the first chapter of Letters to My Daughters, by Fawzia Koofi, one of Afghanistan's most popular members of parliament, in a memoir that grabs its readers by the throat and doesn't let go. Call it a death grip -after all, Koofi has literally run for her life on numerous occasions starting at the age of four when life in Afghanistan started to unravel after the Soviet Union invaded the rugged country in 1979.

Besides risks to her own life, her father, Wakil Abdul Rahman, an MP for the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan, which she now represents, was murdered, as were four of her brothers. "I have stared death in the face countless times in my 35 years, but still I'm alive. I don't know why this is," she muses.

Koofi was born the 19th of her father's 23 children and the seventh and last child of her mother -the second of her father's seven wives.

About one year before Koofi was born, her mother grew depressed after her husband brought home a new bride -a 14-year-old girl. That girl bore a son and Koofi's mother, who was six months pregnant herself, hoped that she too would bear a son to gain back the favour of her husband. It was not to be.

"Semi-conscious by the time I was delivered, (my mother) had barely enough energy to express her dismay at the news I was a girl. When I was shown to her, she turned away, refusing to hold me," writes Koofi.

"No one cared if the new girl child lived or died, so while they focused on saving my mother's life, I was wrapped in cotton muslin swaddling cloth and placed outside in the baking sun. I lay there for almost a day, screaming my little lungs out." Sounds horrific, but within a few chapters, it's impossible not to fall in love with Koofi's mother -Bibi jan -an illiterate woman described as the "kindest, most talented teacher in the world" who suffered terribly during her life.

"I recall watching in horror once as my father chased my mother along the corridor and began beating her," writes Koofi. "Once, my father viciously tore out a chunk of her hair during a beating. . Beating was a normal part of marriage," something virtually all Afghan women and girls expect to be a part of their lives.

Such passages reinforce what many Canadians believe about Afghanistan's medieval ways and its violence, but what this book accomplishes so beautifully is that it reminds readers of the humanity of Afghans. Despite the tragedy that has gripped the lives of almost every Afghan over 30 years of war, these are people with aspirations and sentiments not unlike our own.

Each chapter starts with a letter from Koofi to her daughters, Shuhra, who will turn 13 later this month, and Shaharzad, 11. While these letters are full of love, wisdom and advice, it is the narrative of Koofi's life that will keep you turning the pages. Reached at her hotel room during a visit to Ottawa on Thursday, Koofi is just as engaging to talk to as her book is compelling to read.

While Koofi says she has been keeping a gruelling schedule of media interviews and public readings on her cross-Canada book tour, she is accustomed to long days of travel, meeting with her constituents in the impoverished northern part of Afghanistan and tending to her legislative duties in Kabul.

But in Canada, where her life is not under constant threat by the Taliban, she says despite the hectic pace, she finds it relaxing. Koofi makes a point of thanking Canadian troops for their sacrifice and the positive difference they have made to her country. She mentions Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang, who was murdered by the Taliban near Kandahar on Dec. 30, 2009: "The Taliban like to kill women. They think it will stop other women from having courage and working to change our country. But it was the women and children of Afghanistan who suffered the most under the Taliban and living under the Taliban is worse than death, so they will never be able to kill the resolve of Afghan women to make a better country for their children."

After Koofi's father was killed by mujahedeen fighters, her mother allowed her to attend school. It was there, while watching television, that she learned about British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi in India. But seeing those powerful rulers on television wasn't the spark that has Koofi vowing to run for president of Afghanistan in 2014. It was her parents -the musings of her mother and the political dynasty established by her father -who set her ambitions to lead.

Koofi is disappointed Canada's mission in Afghanistan is coming to an end and is gravely worried for her country.

Helping Afghanistan "is what I live for," writes Koofi at the end of her book. "And it is what I know I will die for." Here's hoping this brave woman has many more years of leadership before that happens. She might just change the world."

Licia Corbella is a columnist and editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald.

Click here to learn more about Fawzia Koofi.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Detained and Denied in Afghanistan | HRF

Detained and Denied in Afghanistan
How to Make U.S. Detention Comply with the Law

A New Report from Human Rights First

You can click on the graphic to expand the chart.

The Facts

Since President Obama took office, the number of prisoners held by the U.S. in Afghanistan has almost tripled—from 600 in 2008 to 1700 in 2011.

The U.S. Prison at Bagram now holds almost ten times as many detainees as are being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Prisoners at the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan now have the right to appear before a board of military officers to plead for their release and challenge the claims that they are “enemy belligerents” fighting U.S. forces.

Prisoners still do not have the right to see the evidence being used against them, or the right to a lawyer to represent them.



The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.” –Boumedienne v. Bush

After many years of completely denying detainees in Afghanistan the opportunity to defend themselves against arbitrary detention, the United States government has finally implemented a hearing process that allows detainees to hear the charges against them and to make a statement in their own defense. While a significant improvement, these new hearings fall short of minimum standards of due process required by international law.

In imprisoning people indefinitely without meaningful independent review, the United States is depriving these detainees of their liberty, casting suspicions upon them in their community and often depriving extended Afghan families of their primary breadwinner and source of protection and support. Because imprisoning suspected insurgents is such a serious matter for the men themselves, for their families and for their communities, it is incumbent upon the United States government to create a mechanism that ensures that those it is holding are dangerous insurgents and not innocent Afghans.

Only by providing detainees in Afghanistan an opportunity to defend themselves in a meaningful manner with the assistance of legal counsel and the opportunity to confront witnesses and the evidence against them can the United States ensure that it is imprisoning the right people. Moreover, only by providing real due process, and demonstrating by example what due process requires, can the United States expect to win the trust and respect of the Afghan people, who see themselves as vulnerable to U.S. military power.

The death of Osama bin Laden is likely to increase pressure on the Obama Administration to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan soon. As the United States draws down its military involvement, it should shift some of those resources toward a civilian effort to improve the rule of law in Afghanistan.

The United States’ goal of helping Afghanistan improve its justice system is an important and laudable one. In the long term, it will help stabilize the country by encouraging Afghans’ respect for their government and trust in their government institutions to protect them. Improving the administration of justice in national security cases will also directly help to ensure that violent insurgents remain incarcerated and cannot threaten Afghan national security. Given the sorry state of the Afghan justice system after decades of war and entrenched corruption, however, this goal is necessarily a long-term one. Even after the United States withdraws the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan, ongoing support for its fledgling justice system will be necessary, and critical to the country’s stable development. Human Rights First urges the United States government to take a long-term view of the problem and to commit to civilian assistance for Afghan judges, lawyers and legal institutions far into the future.

Drone Strikes Hit Three Targets Kill 17 in Pakistan

The Voice of America broadcast service quotes Pakistani intelligence officials saying “three U.S. drone strikes have killed at least 17 militants in the country's northwest tribal region.”

The Long War Journal confirms that “[t]he US has carried out 11 Predator strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas since US Navy SEALs and CIA operatives raided Osama bin Laden's safehouse in Abbottabad, far from Pakistan's tribal areas, on the early morning of May 2.”

On Saturday the Wall Street Journal carried an article highlighting the split in the Obama administration over the Central Intelligence Agency's targeted-killing program. In opposition are the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and other top military leaders seeking to rein in the CIA’s aggressive pace of strikes.

"WASHINGTON—Fissures have opened within the Obama administration over the drone program targeting militants in Pakistan, with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in the Central Intelligence Agency's aggressive pace of strikes.

Such a move would roll back, at least temporarily, a program that President Barack Obama dramatically expanded soon after taking office, making it one of the U.S.'s main weapons against the Pakistan-based militants fighting coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The program has angered Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants. The debate over drones comes as the two sides try to repair relations badly frayed by the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January, a wave of particularly lethal drone strikes following Mr. Davis's release from Pakistani custody in March, and the clandestine U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

The White House National Security Council debated a slowdown in drone strikes in a meeting on Thursday, a U.S. official said. At the meeting, CIA Director Leon Panetta made the case for maintaining the current program, the official said, arguing that it remains the U.S.'s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies.

The result of the meeting—the first high-level debate within the Obama administration over how aggressively to pursue the CIA's targeted-killing program—was a decision to continue the program as is for now, the U.S. official said.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Lessons to be learned...

During the Cold War, Western Kremlinologists would scrutinize the reviewing stand at May Day parades to see which Politburo members were in and which were out.

Scholar Artemy M. Kalinovsky penetrates this secrecy, investigating newly available Russian archives. His new book, "A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan," brings a human cast to those inscrutable figures on the reviewing stand.

He sketches a candid portrait of the Politburo's frustrations and doubts over the 10-year military campaign, which ended in the 1989 retreat.

At a meeting to discuss the invasion, Soviet diplomat Mikhail Kapitsa pointed out "that the Soviet intervention would face enormous difficulties and cited the experience of the British troops in the nineteenth century. [Soviet President Andrei] Gromyko reportedly asked, 'Do you mean to compare our internationalist troops with the imperialist troops?'

"Kapitsa replied, 'No, our troops are different, but the mountains are the same!' "

Within a year of taking power in 1978, the Afghan Communists were asking the Soviet Union for help. As early as 1980-81, some Russian experts doubted the Afghanistan problem could be solved by the military. By 1982, Soviet leaders were looking seriously for a way out.

But they feared losing face by departing. They worried that their influence among Third World nations would abate and that Afghanistan itself would fall into anarchy.

By 1986, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was calling the war a "bleeding wound." The next year he confided, "We were pulled into Afghanistan, and now we don't know to get out. . . . It's awful when you have to defend Brezhnev's policies."

The story carries a familiar ring. Kalinovsky, who teaches at the University of Amsterdam, uses the word "quagmire" often.

Some 12,000 Soviet soldiers died before it was over; roughly 40,000 were wounded. A mind-numbing 1.2 million Afghans perished. Afghanistan was the Soviet albatross, as the Vietnam War was for the United States.

"A Long Goodbye" reminds its readers of the U.S. military incursions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kalinovsky doesn't dwell on why the Soviets went in, but wonders why it took the country so long to bring its soldiers home.

The Soviet fought a "limited war, much more so than the U.S. involvement in Vietnam," he writes. The invasion deployed only 100,000 soldiers out of a standing army of 5 million. And Kalinovsky contends it was not a factor, as some have said, in the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Yet it was extremely difficult for the Soviets to extricate themselves. "The single most important reason," Kalinovsky writes, is "that they continued to believe the USSR could help stabilize Afghanistan, build up the Afghan armed forces, and make the Kabul government more acceptable to its people."

For Gorbachev, retreat was part of wider strategy of seeking cooperation with the United States in reaching a political solution to a regional conflict. But he wanted the United States and others to stop funding the mujahedeen. We refused.

Kalinovsky has produced an academic study with a narrow focus on the decision-making and diplomacy of Soviet leaders. It makes for dense reading. It is thin on the context of Afghanistan itself and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

Yet the U.S. reader cannot miss the resonance of this story. It may be even more relevant now that Osama bin Laden is out of the picture.

Eleanor Mallet is a critic in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

The Day Obama Decided | Margit Berman

A Poem

The day Obama decided enough was enough
and turned off his TV and slept well for the first time since 2007,
and Nancy Pelosi decided enough was enough
on a weekend in Vermont, when she threw
the Times and the Post into the woodstove unread,
and Congress decided enough was enough
staring into the mirrors of their sleeping consciences:
They began by ordering all the troops home.

You should have seen the parades.

They marched past boarded-over buildings
and threw grenades
made from tulip bulbs and tomato seeds
into weedy empty lots.

They pulled trailers down the highways
past the cornfields
and wheeled hot tubs up to the doors
of arthritic old ladies,
presented bottles full of bubble bath
stamped "Courtesy of U.S. D.O.D."

They rode ferris wheels with teenagers from Guantanamo,
passed baklava, pupusas, and mangoes on sticks
down the streets to anyone who wanted them.

Then they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The doors of the White House were flung wide open.
Anyone who wanted to could stream in
for a handshake and a plastic flag.

The air was thick with confetti
from all the shredded fear laws.
Open your mouth: You can still
taste the jagged edges.
"SB1070" and "USA PATRI"
melt away on your tongue.

-Margit Berman
To learn more click here.

What Afghans Think

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces the International Council on Security and Development added an additional interview set to complete their report on Afghan attitudes towards the removal of foreign forces.

The study is loaded with interesting figures. The couple below deal with troop withdrawl and negotiations and reintegration of Taliban.

Afghanistan Transition: The Death of Bin Laden and Local Dynamics
International Council on Security and Development (ICOS)
Afghanistan, April-May 2011

In April 2011, research interviews with 1425 men were undertaken in 13 districts of Afghanistan and at Kabul University to assess military-aged males’ susceptibility to supporting or joining insurgent groups and provide a longitudinal assessment to evaluate the effects of international military operations on their perceptions (numbers and districts available in the methodology section of this report).

This was achieved by questioning the target group on security and development issues including, but not exclusively: the international presence; the Afghan government; the Afghan security forces; the Taliban; and attitudes towards women and democracy.
Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
215-241-7000 ·