View Full Version : [Afghan News] November 17, 2011

02-24-2012, 04:16 PM
Rockets fired into Kabul as national assembly continues
By Nick Paton Walsh and Masoud Popalzai, CNN November 17, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Two rockets were fired into the Afghan capital on Thursday as President Hamid Karzai met tribal elders to discuss the future of U.S. military presence in the nation, authorities said.
The rockets fired near the western part of Kabul landed near a market, injuring one civilian, the Kabul police chief said.
Karzai and tribal elders were participating in a national assembly, or loya jirga, in Kabul to address the long-term pact with the U.S. military and set limits on NATO troops in in the nation.
"America is powerful, has more money, but we are lions here. Lions have the habit of not liking strangers getting into their house," Karzai said Wednesday.
"We want our sovereignty from today. Our relations should be between two independent countries."
The speech appeared designed to boost his nationalist credentials with a domestic audience, and was also broadly critical of NATO, saying the intended departure of its troops in 2014 was "good for Afghans."
NATO plans to withdraw most combat troops by that date, but is negotiating what sort of long-term presence they might have here.
Karzai spelled out conditions for a long-term foreign military presence -- mostly formalizations of long-held Afghan complaints about the international presence here.
"I'd like to tell them they can't arrest any Afghan on our soil and they can't have prisons. We have a justice and security system and that is up to us," he said.
He said a deal that enabled U.S. forces to have bases in Afghanistan was beneficial, but added they would not be able to attack Afghanistan's neighbors from inside the country, conduct night raids, search houses or arrest Afghans.
He said night raids by foreign troops must stop, adding that NATO troops should not be allowed to search people's houses -- complaints that have already prompted NATO to adjust its operations and incorporate greater Afghan assistance.
The loya jirga is considered an important step toward any possible peace deal with elements of the insurgency.
Hundreds of community leaders have been invited from across the country, with the meeting a test of Karzai's potency as a cohesive leader.
The turnout Wednesday was considerable.
Troops, security officials, and police lined the roads outside the loya jirga tent, near the Intercontinental Hotel on the capital's outskirts.
The Taliban have long threatened to disrupt the event.
On Monday, security forces killed a suicide bomber near the meeting site. The attacker was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase when he was stopped, said Gen. Ayoub Salangi, chief of Kabul police.
On Sunday, a Taliban-affiliated website published what it claimed was a leaked document containing confidential government security plans for the meeting.
The leaked security plans included a detailed satellite map of the area and purported details of the security arrangements, but the Interior Ministry immediately dismissed them as fake.

Afghan public shows varied reaction towards Loya Jirga
By Farid Behbud, Zhang Jianhua
KABUL, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- While over 2,300 participants in a Loya Jirga or traditional grand assembly have been discussing a number of topics in Afghan capital Kabul, the war-weary Afghans have shown mixed reaction towards the decisions of the event expected to be announced on Saturday.
"Having strategic relationship with the United States will not change the route of the war and would not encourage the Taliban insurgents to give up the fighting," a Kabul resident named Mohammad Samim said to Xinhua in a brief interview on Thursday.
More than 2,300 participants including tribal elders, lawmakers and government functionaries have attended the four-day assembly, kicked off on Wednesday, to discuss the proposed strategic partnership with the United States as well as government-initiated peace talks with the Taliban and other armed opposition groups in the militancy-plagued country.
Afghan president has recently said his government halts efforts to broker peace talks with the main anti-government militants -- the Taliban -- after a suicide bomber killed the former Afghan President and chief of country's High Peace Council in his Kabul house on mid September.
"Yes, they are talking and discussing on a designed agreement of having partnership with the United States and would decide peace efforts, but these decision would bolster Taliban morale in fighting U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan," Samim added.
"This on-going Loya Jirga is benefiting our country and personally I support it," Alam Khan a passerby in Kabul city, told Xinhua on Thursday.
"There are many foreign troops in Afghanistan right now but their presence is questionable, and that legalizing this presence is a positive sign that at least the night raids by foreign forces and harming civilians will be decreased in Afghanistan," Khan, 50, went on to say.
"I want this Jirga to approve strategic partnership with the United States, we are fed up of the war and interfering of neighboring countries and that this strategic agreement would eventually end the Taliban, who are killing innocent people and are the veritable arms of other countries of this region," Khan said.
"Any decisions taken by the Loya Jirga participants would be respected and implemented," said Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his opening remark in the first day of the Jirga on Wednesday.
The decisions, taken by the four-day Loya Jirga would be forwarded to the parliament for ratification, Karzai added.
In a statement released to media, Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops described the Loya Jirga as a trick to legitimize the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and vowed to disrupt it.
"Having strategic relations with the United States is in the benefit of Afghanistan, but we have preconditions in this regard. Our conditions are that the United States and NATO forces should stop searching Afghan houses and night operations, should halt having parallel establishments with the Afghan administration and should respect our national sovereignty from now on," Karzai said in his opening speech at the Loya Jirga on Wednesday.
"Our relations with the United States should be based on equity and be a relation between two sovereign independent countries," Karzai told the audience in his hour-long speech.
Despite a tight security in capital city of Kabul as Afghan army and police are deployed around the Polytechnic University campus where the Loya Jirga is being held and other sensitive spots and hilltops nearby, insurgent fired two rockets on the Jirga Thursday morning injuring at least one person.
"At around 08:10 a.m. (0340 GMT) Thursday two round of rockets were fired from Pul-i-Hassan area south of Kabul city and landed in two different locations as a result one person was injured," the Kabul police said in a statement.
However, hours after the rocket attack, spokesman of Interior Ministry Seddiq Seddiqui told local media that two suspects who carried the rockets and shot Thursday morning were detained in a joint operation launched by police, army and Afghan intelligence officers.
The statement blamed the rocket attack on the enemies of peace and stability, a reference to Taliban insurgents who have threatened to disrupt the Loya Jirga.
The Taliban outfit, which attacked a similar Jirga held in the same location to discuss the government-initiated national reconciliation and talks with the armed opposition groups in June 2010, has vowed to target and disrupt the Jirga.

Night raids effective in Afghanistan: Pentagon
Lalit K Jha
Washington, Nov 17 (PTI) Dismissing apprehensions of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai the Pentagon has said that night raids, being carried out as joint operation with the Afghan forces, perform a valuable and necessary function in the war against terrorism.
In his address to the Loya Jirga, which kicked off in Kabul yesterday, Karzai had demanded cessation of night raids as one of the conditions for signing Strategic partnership with the United States and having a military base for the US in Afghanistan.
The night raids do perform a very valuable and necessary function and President Karzai has been very clear over the last several years about his concerns about night raids, Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt John Kirby, told reporters at a news conference.
Frankly we share those same concerns, nobody wants to see innocent civilians hurt, Capt Kirby said, adding that they (night raids) are effective, and they don''t result in a great number of civilian casualties.
"We have laid out our belief that these operations are effective and they are joint with the Afghans and will involve increasing Afghan participation over time, just as we have tried very hard, and are having some success in transferring Afghan lead responsibility for different parts of the country to the Afghans," said the Pentagon Press Secretary, George Little.
The US is watching the Loya Jirga very closely, he said.
"This is obviously a very important traditional Afghan institution, and we welcome President Karzai''s endorsement of the strategic partnership.
"The United States and Afghanistan have been working closely together to frame a long-term strategic partnership, and those discussions are ongoing and will go on for some time," he said.
Little said as of now no decision has been taken on the future of the US military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
"We do want to have a long-term strategic partnership, but specific components of that partnership are still to be defined.
"We obviously want to work closely in concert with the government of Afghanistan to define the parameters of that enduring partnership, but it''s too early to say," he said.
The Pentagon Press Secretary said the US is working toward transfer of security responsibilities to the Afghans in close partnership with the Karzai government.
"That''s absolutely the goal certainly before the end of 2014. Supporting the security of Afghanistan will continue to be a goal for the United States beyond 2014.
"Now, how we do that we still need to determine in concert with the Afghans," he said.

Pakistan envoy recalled in memo dispute
Financial Times By Matthew Green and Geoff Dyer November 17, 2011
Islamabad, Washington - Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington has been summoned to Islamabad following reports that he sought US help to rein in the country’s powerful generals in the wake of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, officials said.
Pakistan’s political elite has been gripped by a controversy unfolding in the country’s media over a memorandum that appears to contain a plea from Pakistan’s civilian authorities for US backing for moves to assert control over the military.
The existence of the memo was revealed by Mansoor Ijaz, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, in a column in the Financial Times on October 10.
Mr Ijaz, who makes venture capital investments, says he played a role in helping deliver the memo to Admiral Mike Mullen, who was then chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, a week after the May 2 raid that killed Bin Laden.
The revelations over the memo have sparked a political firestorm in Pakistan, where attempts by civilians to assert control over the army tend to encounter stiff resistance from generals.
Mr Ijaz has not publicly named the memo’s authors, but several Pakistani newspapers have speculated that it was authorised by Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s envoy to the US, who is regarded as a close ally of Asif Ali Zardari, the president.
A foreign ministry official said that Mr Haqqani had been recalled for consultations in Islamabad. A source in Pakistan’s presidency went further, saying Mr Haqqani had offered to resign – although Mr Zardari’s spokesman was not available for comment and Mr Haqqani could not be reached in Washington.
“Husain Haqqani wrote a letter to the president saying that if this deadlock can be resolved by his resignation then he is willing to step down,” said the source in the presidency.
A senior official in the ruling Pakistan People’s party also said Mr Haqqani had offered to resign from the post, which he has held since 2008.
Mr Haqqani has been a key figure in the complex alliance between the US and Pakistan, which encompasses issues from counter-terrorism co-operation to nuclear security and the future of western efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.
His departure would throw fresh uncertainty into the relationship and underscore the power wielded by Pakistan’s military establishment over their civilian counterparts.
“The government was under pressure from the [military] establishment on the matter of Husain Haqqani’s role in communicating a message to the US after Osama bin Laden’s killing,” said the official.
The memo contained a plea for US support to deter Pakistan’s generals from mounting a coup in the highly charged political atmosphere after bin Laden’s death. In return, the authors of the memo pledged to work with the US to check the power of Pakistan’s generals, and in particular to curb the activities of the intelligence services in backing militants in Afghanistan, Mr Ijaz said.
Mr Haqqani had said earlier on Wednesday that he had no involvement with the memo. Pakistan’s government has denied sending it. Adm Mullen last week issued a statement saying he had no recollection of receiving the memo.
However, Captain John Kirby, who served as spokesman for Adm Mullen during his tenure as chairman of the joint chiefs, said on Wednesday that Adm Mullen had since double-checked with several other people, one of whom produced a copy of the memo. “He did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later,” Capt Kirby said. “Therefore, he addressed it with no one.”
Additional reporting by James Crabtree in London

27 insurgents killed, 6 captured in Afghanistan
KABUL, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Afghan security forces, backed by NATO-led Coalition troops, have killed 27 insurgents and captured six others over the past 24 hours, the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
"The Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan National Army and Coalition Forces launched six joint operations in surrounding areas of Kabul, Kunar, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Kunduz and Kandahar provinces over the past 24 hours," the ministry said in a statement.
"As a result of these operations, 27 armed insurgents were killed and six others were arrested by the ANP," it said, adding the ANP also discovered and confiscated a handful of weapons and ammunitions during the above operations.
Afghan officials often use the word "insurgents" referring to the Taliban.
Taliban insurgents, whose regime was toppled in a U.S.-led incursion in late 2001, have intensified activities since the militant group launched a spring offensive against Afghan and NATO- led troops stationed in Afghanistan on May 1, have yet to make comments.
Afghan and NATO-led coalition forces keep up pressure on insurgents all over the country as over 400 insurgents had been killed and around 580 detained by joint forces since the beginning of October, according to the Afghan interior ministry.

Afghan police kill 2 Taliban commanders
KABUL, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Police killed two Taliban commanders in an operation in southern Afghan province of Uruzgan on Wednesday, Interior Ministry said in a press release Thursday.
"Personnel of National Police during an operation raided Taliban hideouts in Uruzgan's provincial capital Trinkot Wednesday night and killed two commanders namely Mullah Nimatullah and Qari Hayatullah," the press release said.
Both commanders were responsible for organizing suicide attacks, roadside bombings and targeting security forces in Trinkot and adjoining areas, the press release added.

Russia concerned by U.S. military plans in central Asia, Afghanistan
MOSCOW, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Russia was concerned by U.S. plans to expand its military presence in central Asia and to set up large military bases in Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.
"It is still unclear how the (U.S.) troops' withdrawal scheduled in 2014 after the end of anti-terrorism operations corresponds to the U.S. plans to set up in Afghanistan quite big military bases," Lavrov told reporters after his talks with visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna here.
Lavrov said Moscow had discussed the issue with Afghan and U.S. representatives, but "there are more questions than answers so far."
"Moreover, information comes in periodically that our American colleagues want to expand their military presence in central Asia," he said.
Lavrov said, from the start of the operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Russia was told that the foreign presence in Afghanistan and its transit centers in central Asia would be used purely to fight that particular terrorism threat.
"Russia was told there were no long-term geopolitical calculations," Lavrov said, adding these principals should be respected in full.

9 killed in U.S. drone strike in NW Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- At least nine people were killed in a U.S. drone strike launched Thursday afternoon in Pakistan's northwest tribal area of North Waziristan which borders Afghanistan, reported local Urdu TV channel ARY.
According to the report, four missiles were fired by U.S. drones at a house suspected of being a militant hideout in the Razmak area of North Waziristan, a haven of militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.
This is the fourth strike by U.S. drones in Pakistan since this month and the 63rd of its kind (both counted on daily basis) in 2011. To date, a total of 543 people, most of whom are believed to be militants, have been killed so far this year.

Pakistani Ambassador to US Offers Resignation
VOA News November 17, 2011
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States has offered to resign amid reports that the Pakistani government sought American help in defusing a possible military takeover.
Ambassador Hussain Haqqani said he would step down in the interest of the nation. He has been summoned to Islamabad to discuss the situation.
Haqqani has denied he was involved in drafting or passing a memo supposedly sent in May from Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, who was then the top U.S. military officer.
A Pakistani-American businessman described the memo in an opinion piece published last month in the Financial Times newspaper, saying Mr. Zardari was seeking U.S. help to prevent a possible coup by the Pakistani military following the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Haqqani has been the ambassador to Washington since 2008, and Pakistan has not responded to his resignation offer.
The May 2 raid in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad underscored tensions between Pakistan's military and its civilian government.
Pakistan was not informed about the U.S. special forces operation in advance and condemned the raid as a violation of its sovereignty.

Restored Citadel of Herat poignant reminder of past Afghan glory
More than 300 craftsmen labored years shoring up the fortress in western Afghanistan, which opened last month as a museum and cultural center. At the opening, there was hopeful talk of a tourist draw.
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times November 17, 2011
Reporting from Herat, Afghanistan— Imperial soldiers once patrolled its battlements. Treasure lay heaped in vaulted storerooms. Prisoners languished in its depths; princes plotted the course of empires. But by late in the last century, the mighty fortress overlooking this western Afghan city had fallen into ruin.
Built on a plateau thought to have been a redoubt of Alexander the Great, the Citadel of Herat has been brought back to life. Reopened last month as a museum and cultural center after a painstaking refurbishment, the 15th century structure serves as a poignant reminder of past glories in a country beaten down by decades of war and deprivation.
More than 300 craftsmen spent nearly three years shoring up the citadel's winding ramps, cavernous chambers and soaring buttresses, rebuilding delicate wooden latticework and piecing together damaged decorative tiles. Before the reconstruction could even begin, they had to clear out piles of fetid garbage and drain off pools of stagnant rainwater.
With the citadel's commanding hilltop position, "it was always a project that quite literally stared us in the face," said Ajmal Maiwandi, director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which carried out the restoration with about $2.4 million in funding from the United States and Germany.
In the 1970s, UNESCO did extensive restoration at the site, working from historical depictions of the original structure. But the 1979 Soviet invasion, the country's wrenching civil war and the reign of the Taliban led to prolonged neglect and destruction. The fortress reverted to its original role as a military encampment, used by Afghan security forces after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The site wasn't handed over to Afghanistan's Culture Ministry until 2006.
Even before the convulsion of recent conflicts, the citadel had seen centuries of tumult. Through the ages, Herat's Silk Road location was both boon and bane; trade flourished here, as did music, art and poetry. But the city was also a magnet for successive waves of marauders.
At the citadel's formal opening, with foreign and Afghan dignitaries gathered in a sun-dappled courtyard, there was hopeful and perhaps quixotic talk that the fortress could help put Herat on the tourist map. Other than invading armies, outside visitors have been little seen since Afghanistan's hippie-trail heyday of the 1960s and '70s.
Besides the draw of the structure itself, the citadel houses a museum with artifacts mainly found in and around the city: exquisite metalwork and pottery, illustrated manuscripts and ornamental objects, a 14th century cenotaph. Some of the pieces were uncovered during recent archaeological excavations that proceeded parallel to the reconstruction.
"With all this, we have been able to create a genuine cultural landscape," said Ute Franke, a German museum curator who serves as deputy director of the German-Afghan Archaeological Project.
For all the sense of achievement surrounding the citadel project, it highlighted the peril posed to Afghanistan's other historical sites, said Maiwandi, of the Aga Khan trust. His organization has restored four dozen monuments and structures in the city, but often-rapacious development has claimed many more, he told the crowd at the reopening ceremony.
"The new," he said, "does not have to come at the cost of the old."
Among those who aided in the restoration, there is also quiet concern about whether Afghan cultural authorities will be up to the task of curating the museum collection and caring for the site, an echo of wider worries about the winding down of the Western military presence, which will leave Afghan forces in charge of safeguarding a still-violent country.
One of the dignitaries at the inauguration was Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador. He recalled visiting Herat as a young traveler more than three decades ago and marveling at the sight of the half-destroyed citadel.
The fortress "was rebuilt by Afghan hands, by the hands of Heratis," he said. "As this citadel represents, Afghanistan stood as a great nation. It will so stand again."

The Voices of Afghan Street Children
The Huffington Post By Rahilla Zafar Arabic Knowledge@Wharton Correspondent, UPenn Grad Student 16//11/2011
British journalist Andrea Busfield lived for several years in Afghanistan, an experience that helped her write the novel Born Under A Million Shadows. Published in 19 countries, the novel tells the story of modern life in Afghanistan, through the eyes of a young boy named Fawad. Like many Afghan children, he is fatherless and works on the streets of Kabul to help his mother. Facing homelessness, Fawad's mother takes a job as a housekeeper, and he suddenly finds himself living in an expatriate home.
Busfield discusses the perception everyday Afghans have of the expatriates and foreign soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. Although the Taliban are no longer in power, she says, Afghans must contend with the aftermath of decades of war and brave the constant threat of suicide attacks. Despite such difficulties, a number of Afghans are budding entrepreneurs, she notes, looking for opportunities to cash in on the construction projects being launched in the country, or by catering to the tastes of their foreign visitors.
Could you describe some of the circumstances that Afghan entrepreneurs face?
Busfield: The biggest challenge facing ordinary Afghans is finding the capital to kick-start their ideas. Most Afghans I know have their eyes on the stars no matter where they stand on the ground. And with their country crawling with dollars like never before, most are seeking a way to make the most of the moment. A lot of Afghans have set up construction firms, hoping to cash in on the crop of contracts out there for rebuilding the country's infrastructure. Others have been quick to emulate and cater to the tastes of their Western donors, offering door-to-door taxi services, beauty parlors, supermarkets and fast food joints such as Afghan Fried Chicken. Some have set up incredibly successful media outlets aimed at the home market, such as the Mohseni family, who established Afghanistan's first independent radio and TV station. However, not everyone or every venture has proved successful, and poverty and corruption stifle entrepreneurial spirit. In Afghanistan it is still the case, by and large, that you need
money in order to make money.
How effective has foreign aid been in Afghanistan?
Busfield: It is all too easy to knock the effort in Afghanistan. It is true a lot of money gets wasted in bureaucracy and swallowed by corruption, but dollars do filter through and they go towards building schools, clinics and wells, among other needs. Also, it is important to remember that Afghan people aren't simply sitting at home waiting for the great and the good of the West to come to the rescue and make their lives better. Most Afghans I know are determined to see their kids go to school. The first world doesn't have a monopoly on wishing the best for their children.
Osama bin Laden comes up in your book. How was he viewed on the streets of Kabul?
Busfield: The first time I visited Afghanistan was in 2001, shortly after the atrocities of 9/11. I was on the frontline that November when the Taliban fled Kabul. However, I was later surprised to hear that a meeting had taken place between the commanders of both sides a few hours previously in which it was decided, over cups of green tea, that the game was up and the Taliban commanders wouldn't just surrender, but they'd also swap sides. This was, and presumably is, the nature of Afghan warfare. In the end they are all brothers. However, such forgiveness and brotherly solidarity was limited and didn't extend to the foreigners within enemy ranks, which is why most of the Taliban found dead and butchered after the 2001 'liberation' were from Pakistan or Chechnya, for example.
As far as bin Laden was concerned, I'd never heard him much talked about beyond jokes poking fun at his life on the run in Pakistan -- jokes that actually turned out to be true. However, now he is gone it appears that most Afghans I've heard from are simply glad to see the back of them. He wasn't a national hero as Ahmad Shah Massoud or Abdul Haq were (Afghan leaders who fought Russia during its invasion of Afghanistan, and were later killed by the Taliban) -- he was a foreigner who brought indescribable chaos and bloodshed raining down on the heads of Afghans. His capture and death have also simply confirmed everything most ordinary Afghans have been shouting for years -- look to Pakistan!
How would you describe Afghanistan's relationship with neighboring Pakistan?
Busfield: Every Afghan I know blames Pakistan for the mess their country is currently in. And most Afghans are still pretty aggrieved by the drawing up of the 'Durand Line' (the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan drawn up during the British colonial era) which gifted part of Afghanistan to Pakistan, and which many refuse to acknowledge.
At the same time, many Afghans are grateful to Pakistan, as they lived there for years as refugees and still have family there. This is also undoubtedly true. Afghans are grateful and thankful for the help Pakistan has given them during the last three decades and many of my friends class ordinary Pakistanis as friends and Muslim brothers. It is not the people that give the majority of Afghans cause for concern. It is the Pakistani government and, more specifically, the Pakistani intelligence service that angers them. The common belief is that Pakistan prospers from instability in Afghanistan, and therefore Pakistan is the main instigator of this instability.
You were recently in Kabul, what were some of your observations?
Busfield: In some ways it has changed a lot. There are more soldiers on the streets, greater bombproof barriers and security checks. In other ways nothing has changed at all; the traffic is still a nightmare, the shopping is lively and the kids still try to fleece you.
Nearly all of the children in your book also work on the streets to help their families. What are their most common roles?
Busfield: Most children working on the street will usually try to sell you something rather than simply beg for a handout. Some sell magazines -- Afghan and foreign -- and chewing gum appears to be popular. Others will hawk novelty key rings, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) memorabilia, maps, mobile phone credits and phrase books. These children tend to line the city's main roads as well as the streets around the embassies, military camps and shopping areas. Other children work for their money by polishing shoes, washing cars or dispensing good luck in the form of a burning can of herbs they call 'spand.'
Thankfully, quite a few of these youngsters only work in the afternoons when they are not in school. As some of them are also well dressed and carry mobile phones, I imagine they earn enough to help support their families. However, many more are struggling and they work for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they need cash for food, sometimes they simply want to buy some of the luxuries they see displayed in shop windows, and sometimes it's about the greatest prize of all -- a good education. I knew one 13-year-old boy who carried his English school certificates with him at all times. They were a constant source of pride that he used to justify his reasons for working -- he had to find U.S. $30 for each new term.
What would you say to those who would protest such child labor?
Busfield: It's easy when you have a state that takes care of you and you've never known poverty. Sadly, Afghanistan is not in the position where it can adequately protect and look after its citizens. Sometimes children have to work in order for the family to survive.
What are organizations in Afghanistan that you think successfully work with street children?
Busfield: There are a number of organizations in Afghanistan that try to assist children, but perhaps the one closest to my heart is Aschiana. This is a charity that aims to take kids off the street and put them in school. They do this by paying them a wage, which basically allows them to earn by learning. In order to get their money they have to attend lessons and show results. Their teachers constantly measure their performance and sponsors are kept informed of 'their' child's progress. For only U.S. $20 a month, this charity can make a huge difference to an Afghan child's life.
Are there more upcoming books?
Busfield: I finished my second novel, Aphrodite's War, which is set on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus during fifty years of British occupation, interethnic violence and subsequent division. I am now turning my mind to a novel about the Romani people.
This interview was previously published in Arabic Knowledge@Wharton.

After the US pulls out, will CIA rely more on Afghan mercenaries?
Thousands of Afghan mercenaries are believed to be helping America battle Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies. But they're accused of flagrant human rights abuses.
Christian Science Monitor By Julius Cavendish, Correspondent November 16, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan - With his broad cheekbones, hair swept back under a sequined cap, and the gentle manner of a well-to-do Pashtun, Atal Afghanzai might easily pass for a doctor or an engineer.
Instead, his career path led into a cloak-and-dagger world of covert armies and foreign agents, until a rare lethal run-in with an Afghan police chief landed him on death row in Kabul’s most notorious prison.
Young and motivated, Mr. Afghanzai is one of thousands of Afghan mercenaries believed to be working with the CIA to help America battle Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies. His story – confirmed by US diplomats, other Western officials, and Afghan authorities – illustrates the military advantages of this secret war. But, with the US poised to ramp up reliance on paramilitaries like Afghanzai as it pulls out frontline troops, the practice is raising the ire of Afghans who accuse the groups of human rights abuses.
RECOMMENDED: Fighting continues in Afghanistan
Speaking from Pul-i-Charki prison, where he is appealing a murder conviction, Afghanzai described how the elite group he once led, that was raised by and answered to the CIA, launched raids on Taliban targets at a moment’s notice.
Recruits were cherry-picked from regular Afghan Army units and trained by US Special Operations Forces at a place called Camp Gecko, he says. Blackhawk helicopters would deliver them to targets in neighboring Zabul and Uruzgan provinces, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai even sent the strike force letters of thanks after successful missions.
Known as the "Kandahar Strike Force," the militia became so effective, says one Taliban commander, that many insurgents came to dread it more than any other pro-government outfit in Afghanistan. When troops leave, what's left?
Part of the job description for Americans left behind after 2014, in the words of the US government’s latest counterterrorism strategy document, will be tackling Al Qaeda and its adherents by using covert tactics that go “beyond traditional intelligence, military, and law enforcement functions.”
Security analysts say that the practice of raising paramilitary units, trained by US Special Operations Forces, run and funded by the CIA, and working closely with local intelligence officials, fits that bill perfectly.
There is, however, a down side to this light-footprint, low-visibility warfare.
Militias are not popular in Afghanistan. They stand accused of murder, rape, and extortion across the country.
In 2009, one of Afghanzai’s comrades was detained. It sparked a shootout that killed Kandahar’s provincial police chief, the head of the province’s criminal investigations department, and several more officers. Afghanzai and 40 of his men were convicted of murder and then imprisoned. It was a rare example of the Afghan judiciary coming down on a US bankrolled mercenary – and likely only happened because Afghanzai and his men killed a well-connected Afghan Police commander in broad daylight.
Other allegations of wrongdoing, such as armed robbery, have been impossible to properly investigate because of the group’s clandestine nature and connections.
“These kinds of forces are the most shadowy and the most unaccountable in the country, and it’s a really serious problem [that] nobody’s quite taking responsibility for it,” says Rachel Reid, a senior policy adviser to the New York-based Open Society Foundation with extensive experience in Afghanistan.
Groups raised and bankrolled by the CIA or Special Operations Forces have repeatedly run into allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and larceny ¬ – even though US law prohibits tax dollars going to units facing credible accusations of rights abuses. The 'ugly reality'
The ugly reality, says Matt, a Green Beret captain who gives only his first name because of protocol security concerns, is that if the US wants to prevail against the Taliban and its allies, it must work with Afghan fighters whose behavior insults Western sensibilities.
“There are no good guys by our standards. There is no standard to begin with. There is no justice system or rule of law to hold people accountable,” Matt says. “The Taliban are not horribly bad and the Afghan farmer is not an innocent victim.”
In this moral twilight, refusing to work with paramilitaries accused of rights abuses accomplishes nothing, he argues. Instead, as relationships develop, so do the possibilities for altering the “moral calculus” of the Afghan fighters.
“I don’t like this reality,” says Matt. “But I do not have the power to make Afghans conduct themselves like Americans in matters of politics and warfare. I can only influence it over time.” The alternative is to “go home now.”

Reflecting on Afghan public opinion
By Ronald Neumann The Foreign Policy Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Those who argue about the Afghan war on bumper stickers and in sound bites would do well to pay extended attention to the Asia Foundation's annual survey of Afghan public opinion. The results cut both ways, demonstrating more progress than is admitted by the "Afghanistan is hopeless" crowd, while simultaneously calling into question the more extravagant declarations of those who claim a clear path to success. The survey is one of the most careful periodic studies of Afghan opinion. Conducted annually since 2006, this year's survey interviewed 6348 respondents in all 34 of the country's provinces, with sophisticated oversight and training of the pollsters. No survey can wholly correct for the tendency of some people, especially in countries like Afghanistan where the security situation is tenuous, to give the answers they think an outsider wants. The fact that 95 villages originally chosen (out of 876 villages and urban points originally selected for interviewing with a total of 166 later switched for various reasons) had to be replaced by others because of poor security in sampled areas probably slants the results somewhat more toward positive responses. However, it is fair to note that fewer villages were switched for security reasons in 2011 than in 2010 (95 compared to 138 in 2010). Despite these caveats, though, this survey is brim full of important results.
On the positive side, and at a time when many Americans have an undifferentiated view that everything Afghan is sliding downwards, nearly half the Afghans surveyed believe their country is moving in the right direction, a trend that has held up since 2008. The numbers who are optimistic about the country's economic future has risen since last year's survey. The survey also shows continued high esteem for the Afghan Army, the most highly respected institution in Afghanistan by a sizable margin (though those wanting to replicate the Iraq "awakening" example should note that the least respected institution are local militias). Confidence in local government shows improvement, particularly at provincial and district levels, although in this as in every aspect there are wide ethnic and regional differences that merit close attention.
There is strong support for a negotiated peace, although the regional differences evident in the survey results suggest great concern that a badly designed peace might bring the Taliban back to power. This fear of civil war if the Taliban returns to power is one I heard much about when I visited Afghanistan in March. The survey indicates that such fears are particularly wide spread among ethnic minorities, so the kind of peace we pursue matters, in order to prevent a move toward armed conflict from populations who are most concerned about a Taliban return. Support for the Taliban has declined, and there is clearly an increased revulsion among Afghans against the civilian casualties caused by the insurgents. Afghan respondents also show increasing awareness of improvements in health and education. In short, there is progress. But there is also a great deal about which to be concerned.
Afghan fears about security are growing, and now overshadow complaints about corruption (still a major problem). Afghans in the areas of heavy combat in the southwest, south and east show much lower levels of confidence in security than their counterparts in other parts of the country. Suicide bombers are increasingly rattling the confidence of city dwellers, who have more negative views of security than do villagers. More than half of the respondents say they fear for the safety of themselves and their families, a statistic that would presumably be higher if some of the excluded sample points had been included. More worrisome still, the number of respondents showing such fear has not declined from 2010 to 2011, and in eastern Afghanistan, where the Haqqani Network is predominant, such fear is rising.
There are also growing concerns about freedom of expression in the country -- a concern that reflects somewhat negatively on the Afghan government and warlords, but is specifically linked by many respondents to poor security and fears of the Taliban. The survey lays bare the great deal of doubt that Afghans see about the Taliban being rolled back, even in the areas where direct confrontations with U.S. and international forces have diminished substantially. Concerns about and resentment of the behavior of foreign troops are also a growing problem. There are wide variations on these views even in different districts within provinces, so it is a mistake to say the survey flatly challenges NATO views of success -- but counterinsurgency is as much about psychology as about statistics. These perceptions are a cause for concern that military analysts need to consider.
Ultimately, for all of the negatives in this survey, there are many areas of optimism as well. America has twice ignored Afghanistan, after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and after our initial success in 2001. And twice we have paid substantially in blood for our loss of attention. Before we give up and declare everything hopeless, we need to look closely at how much has been achieved in the eyes of Afghans, and what that means in terms of the possibilities that still exist to succeed. But we need to look equally clearly at the negatives, the places where Afghans remain or have grown more skeptical, and think of corrective actions, even as international forces redeploy within Afghanistan and eventually withdraw. In doing so, the Asia Foundation survey is an important document, but only if we are willing to think in terms more complicated than slogans.
Ronald Neumann was the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan 2005-07 and is the author of The Other War: winning and losing in Afghanistan. He is president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, but the views expressed here are his own.

The limits of regional cooperation in Asia
Foreign Policy By Raffaello Pantucci Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Last week's Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia was unsurprisingly uneventful. While not a "head of state" summit -- where traditionally big announcements like the decision to allow new members in would be made -- in the lead-up to the meeting there was a flurry of press about a possible enlargement of the group. But aspirant members and current observers India and Pakistan were not made into full members, and Afghanistan was once again not brought any closer into the club. Generally seen by Western observers as a less threatening entity than before, the organization's inability to move forward on expansion highlights its immaturity and should show outsiders the likely limited role that it will be able to play in post-American Afghanistan.
Initially born as a vehicle through which to resolve long-standing border disputes in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the "Shanghai Five" as it was known (made up of China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) formally changed its name in 2001 when it opened up to Uzbekistan and turned into the SCO. Over time, it developed into a forum in which regional players could forge closer links on a variety of issues, including economics, development, infrastructure projects and most recently education.
At the core of its identity, however, remained security concerns, focused on countering what the SCO members describe -- in a clear emulation of the Chinese definition of a threat -- as "terrorism, separatism and extremism." Its biannual "Peace Mission" joint counter-terrorism exercises have been the most visible expressions of this focus, offering opportunities for nations to get together and practice operations usually focused on countering an assault by a small force of well-armed terrorists. In January 2004 it established the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and the next year opened its doors to the leaders of India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan, who all attended the annual summit as "observers." Also present was Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the group agreed to establish the SCO-Afghanistan contact group, "with the purpose of elaborating proposals and recommendations on realization of cooperation between the SCO and Afghanistan on issues of mutual interest." However,
since then the Contact Group has done very little, and while further countries have joined the constellation of nations interested in becoming involved in the organization (Belarus and Sri Lanka are now "Dialogue Partners" and Turkey has applied to join this club) no further tangible movement has been made.
Yet it seemed as though this might be changing. Earlier this year, the organization celebrated its ten-year anniversary, and at a high-level conference in Shanghai the question of expansion was brought up repeatedly. However, while Russian participants seemed eager for the organization to allow new members in, the Chinese side seemed hesitant, pushing to deepen the organization's economic focus and develop its international profile through official connections with other international bodies before expanding it further. This was reflected in the public discourse ahead of the St. Petersburg Summit where Russian officials backed the Afghan bid for upgrading the nation to "observer" status and openly supported Pakistan's bid for full-membership. Yet nothing happened, and in his official read-out to journalists on his way back from the Summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made absolutely no mention of the possibilities of expansion.
This inaction is somewhat perplexing to outside observers. The organization was fundamentally founded to clarify borders so as to counter a transnational terrorist threat that most would agree has had a regional home in Afghanistan, and yet the SCO has done surprisingly little in direct terms to help the nation. Individual members have given support and money, but the organization itself has not. The idea of membership, or at least "observer" status, would theoretically tie Afghanistan more closely to regional players and bolster the current administration in Kabul. Yet by this same token, admitting Afghanistan to the group would mean taking sides in a conflict whose outcome remains uncertain. No one yet quite understands what the American withdrawal in 2014 will actually look like, and SCO members are unsure whether they want to become too entangled in a nation that has already subdued at least one SCO member in the past (Russia). And atop all of this there is the capacity question: the SCO has no standing f
orces and controls few direct funds. Consequently, as a diplomat at the Secretariat in Beijing put it to me last year, "what would you have us do?"
Other potential members face different problems: unwilling to take sides, the organization would most likely have to open its doors to both India and Pakistan at the same time -- something that would also have the effect of bringing into the organization all the disagreements they share. The question of upgrading Iran is one that has taken something of a back seat of late following President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's failed attempt to be admitted last year. The reason for this blockage seems to be a general desire amongst SCO members to not overtly antagonize the United States. Mongolia would seem to be a relatively natural member, but given the precedent that letting a nation in would set, it continues to be obliged to sit on the sidelines.
And so the question remains: Why, in the run-up to the St. Petersburg Summit, was there such a flurry of interest in possible expansion? One explanation is that Islamabad has for some time been trying to bolster its regional partnerships in an attempt to counter-balance American anger and perceived fickleness. Russia also appears to be behind a lot of talk of expansion. Concerned about the in-roads China is making in its Central Asian periphery, Moscow perhaps hopes that expanding the SCO, something seen as primarily a Chinese vehicle, might stretch it beyond its ability to function. While the SCO may not have done much yet, it has laid the foundations for a more weighty future -- a long-term vision that accords with China's approach to foreign policymaking.
Whatever the case, the end result is that another high-level SCO Summit passed with little tangible forward movement. Seemingly obvious achievements like upgrading Afghanistan or Turkey continue to be avoided, while outside China there is little evidence that the regional powers are willing to invest too much into the SCO. All of which is welcome news to those who worry about the organization becoming a "NATO of the East," but less positive to those who hope it might be willing to take on a greater role in Afghanistan when the United States makes its move in 2014.
Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and an Associate Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation. His writing can be found at (

Female Cadets Signal Slow Change in Afghan Police Force
New York Times By AISHA CHOWDHRY November 16, 2011
In a class of almost 300 Afghan men, Tamana Tanha, 20, is the only woman training to become a noncommissioned police officer in Mehtar-Lam, the capital city in Laghman Province in East Afghanistan. There are approximately 20 to 30 female police officers in the entire province.
At the Laghman training center in Mehtar-Lam, Ms. Tanha walks into the classroom in the same uniform the male students wear, but covers her head with a white shawl. She sits at the very front of the class not because she is told to do so but because that is where the only fan in the classroom is. She says she enjoys carrying a weapon. Her notebook displays a picture of a BMW on the cover. Inside, it is filled with notes on how to body-check and handcuff people, but mixed in are sketches of flowers and scenery.
There are only 1,200 Afghan women in the 136,000-member Afghan National Police force, less than 1 percent. But those numbers are growing. The governor of Laghman, Mohammad Iqbal Azizi, has seen a steady growth in more women bypassing cultural traditions to join up. He says, “I have noticed recently people have been encouraging women to join the police and do jobs which traditionally were only appropriate for men to perform. It is a very good change in mind-set of people”
It helps that joining the police provides financial stability. An average patrolman makes approximately $165 per month, a decent wage in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world.
But the threat to the police cannot be ignored. On Sept. 29th, an Afghan police vehicle carrying five female officers was attacked by the Taliban. Even with this news, Ms. Tanha insists on being part of the force. She says, “Day to day, for women in Afghanistan, Taliban are a big threat to them. I don’t care about the Taliban. My God is with me.”
She understands the risks as a female who wants to make one of Afghanistan’s deadliest professions her career. “Since I was a kid, I was interested to join the police,” she said. “Now the situation is getting better, so I joined. At first, it felt very weird to walk into a class of 286 men.”
Ms. Tanha, the mother of a boy and a girl, ages 5 and 2 1/2, and a husband who is ill, she had to persuade her family to let her join the police. “I told them women have rights to join the police or army and it has been one of my biggest wishes,” she says.
She says regardless of her being the only female at this training site, her male colleagues consider her their sister and treat her with respect. But she tries to avoid using the bathroom since there are no other females. When she does have to, she asks the police training commander to let her use his bathroom, which is separated from the public restrooms. She does not eat with her fellow colleagues, instead waiting until they are done to enter the cafeteria and eat lunch. “It gets too crowded when the food is ready, so I wait till everyone leaves,” she says.
Ms. Tanha said she hoped the commander would advertise female recruitment for the police with billboards, so more women would join. She also stressed the need for female instructors. “There are lots of challenges and problems. The commander told me he will bring female soldiers to come in and demonstrate. In the class, the male teacher demonstrates to the rest of the students practically how to handle and search a detainee, but because I am a woman I cannot do the same as them.”
The professor in this classroom calls her his most intelligent student. “She is the best student,” said Hafizullah Mirani, the instructor for General Topics. “We hope to have more women and females in class. They like it.” The students in the class all consider her a sister and say they are happy with her in class. Ms. Tanha blushes as all her male colleagues echo the professor’s praise.
Mr. Azizi,the governor, is “very optimistic and confident” about the positive role that women will play in the growth of the Afghan police force.
Ms. Tanha is comfortable in the walls of this classroom but understands that within society, Afghans have a tough future ahead of them. “As an Afghan, every day they are faced with different problems,” she said. “I am hopeful that I am solving my problems. Life is a game. Some people may win this game, some people may lose.”
Aisha Chowdhry is a freelance journalist based out of Washington, D.C. She was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Her first documentary called ‘Pakistan: Inside the Tinderbox’ covers the impact of terrorism on ordinary Pakistani citizens. She has covered stories from Afghanistan and Pakistan for USA Today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty among other publications. You can follow her on Twitter aishach and can be contacted at

Pakistani Envoy Says U.S. Aid Cuts Would Worsen Frayed Ties
Bloomberg By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan Nov. 16, 2011
Slashing American aid to Pakistan, a step advocated by some lawmakers and Republican presidential candidates, would harden public opinion there against the U.S., Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington said.
“Putting restrictions on aid after voting for it is counterproductive,” Husain Haqqani said today at a breakfast with journalists hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. Stopping aid entirely “is likely to have an adverse impact that our relationship could do without,” he said.
Pakistan is the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Afghanistan and Israel, according to the Congressional Research Service. Relations between Pakistan and the U.S. have suffered this year, following the arrest of a U.S. contractor for killing two Pakistanis, the U.S. raid that that killed Osama bin Laden, and public accusations by top U.S. officials that Pakistan was aiding terrorists.
Haqqani said that while ties have frayed, “both sides are still engaged, and engaged at the highest levels.”
Assistance to Pakistan, which became a leading recipient of U.S. aid for counterterrorism efforts following the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S., is small compared with the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.
Since fiscal 2002, the U.S. has provided more than $22 billion in military and civilian assistance to Pakistan, according to the Congressional Research Service. That’s roughly the same as two months of spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq this fiscal year, according to the Pentagon Comptroller’s office.
Republican Debate
In the Nov. 12 Republican presidential debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry said he’d demand that any country seeking U.S. assistance make its case every year rather than being awarded a set amount annually or under multi-year plans.
“The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is gonna start at zero dollars,” Perry said.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich agreed in the debate with the principle of zero-based aid budgeting that would evaluate each country anew. Perry said he didn’t trust Pakistan’s leadership, while presidential candidate Herman Cain said he wasn’t sure if Pakistan was a friend or a foe.
“There is hostile public opinion toward Pakistan in the U.S., and there is hostile public opinion in Pakistan toward the U.S.,” Haqqani said, citing a Pakistani poll showing 12 percent approval for Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S.
‘Hearts and Minds’
Haqqani said those who’d cut Pakistan’s assistance miss the point that “aid provides an instrument of influence” for the U.S. in Pakistan. American money provides health care, education, flood relief and other vital social needs, helping the U.S. win “hearts and minds.”
“For your point of view, it makes sense to continue” such aid, Haqqani said. Threatening to slash aid when relations between the government are strained “erodes good will” among the public, he said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently defended U.S. cooperation with Pakistan before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where lawmakers questioned Pakistan’s willingness to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries inside its borders that are used to launch attacks on U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
“Many of our successes against al-Qaeda would not have been possible without close cooperation” with Pakistan, Clinton testified Oct. 27.
‘Squeeze’ Insurgents
Last month, Clinton visited both Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she, CIA Director David Petraeus and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, urged Pakistan to coordinate with U.S., NATO and Afghan forces on intelligence and covert operations to “squeeze” insurgents on both sides of the porous border.
Haqqani said the U.S. and Pakistan understand each other’s concerns and the limits on what each side can do.
“We are moving ahead in ways that American lives won’t be put at risk in Afghanistan, and that ensure Pakistan is able to maintain its interests.”
The Pakistani envoy said his government has made clear it won’t launch a ground war in the border region of North Waziristan, where the Haqqani terror network has a haven. The U.S. accuses the network of the Sept. 13 assault on the U.S. embassy in Kabul. The network is no relation to the ambassador of the same name.
The ambassador said Pakistan cannot take action that risks “our own internal cohesion” or national security.
Clinton, in an Oct. 22 interview with Bloomberg News following her trip to Islamabad, said the U.S. urged “different ways of fighting besides overt military action” and that Pakistan should fully share intelligence about terrorist suspects and plots. Better coordination might prevent incidents like the attack on the American Embassy, she said.
Haqqani said that the U.S. has pressed for joint covert action. It will “take time for details to be worked out” and the U.S. “understands and accepts that,” he said.
--Editors: Steven Komarow, Justin Blum
To contact the reporter on this story: Indira A.R. Lakshmanan in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at (