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Default [Afghan News] January 14, 2012 - 03-01-2012, 08:45 AM

U.S. Marines Name General To Rule On Corpse Desecration Findings
January 14, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The U.S. Marine Corps has laid the groundwork for deciding what disciplinary action will be taken in the case of an Internet video that appears to show Marine snipers urinating on dead bodies of suspected Afghan Taliban fighters.
The top Marine officer, General James Amos, appointed three-star General Thomas Waldhauser to oversee the case.
Waldhauser named another officer to do an internal Marine Corps investigation, which is in addition to a criminal probe under way by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
The Pentagon says two of the four soldiers seen in the video have been identified, but has not released their names.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for the U.S. government to conduct an independent investigation into the behavior of the soldiers in the video, which has stoked anger among many Afghans.
compiled from agency reports

Marines' Training Gets Scrutiny After Video
Wall Street Journal By JULIAN E. BARNES JANUARY 14, 2012
WASHINGTON - Military investigators, widening a probe of four U.S. Marines depicted in a video urinating on Taliban corpses, will review the kind of training the Marines received in the standards of military conduct, officials said.
The decision to look into the training provided to the Marines was prompted both by the video apparently taken in Afghanistan and by unrelated testimony by a Marine staff sergeant this week that he had urinated on corpses in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005.
The review, which may also examine the command climate surrounding the four Marines in question, is separate from a criminal investigation into the actions of the four as shown in the video, officials said.
"Is there a belief in the Marines that it is OK to do this?" asked one military officer. "We believe these are isolated incidents, but that is what the investigation will look at."
The video, which first surfaced on YouTube and other websites on Wednesday, shows four Marines in Afghanistan urinating on three lifeless bodies. In the video, which runs less than a minute, one of the Marines is heard saying: "Have a great day, buddy."
The video was denounced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other officials. U.S. officials hope a thorough investigation and sharp condemnation will prevent the Afghan public from turning against the war effort.
The Marine Corps has identified all four enlisted Marines shown in the video. The Navy Criminal Investigation Service, which is overseeing the criminal probe, said in a statement that they have interviewed the four, all of whom are currently in the U.S.
NCIS opened its investigation on Wednesday, immediately after learning of the video, and is currently conducting a forensic analysis of the footage, said Maryann B. Cummings, the NCIS communications director.
Investigators were still seeking information on who filmed the video and who posted it to the Internet, Ms. Cummings said.
NCIS investigators will present the results of their investigation to Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, who will decide whether to lodge criminal charges through court-martial proceedings or begin the process of seeking less-severe administrative punishments.
Investigators didn't know why the video was made public. Military officials said the video could have been posted by someone who thought it was funny, or by someone who thought the behavior was inappropriate and should be punished.
The four Marines, all members of a sniper unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C., received at least four training sessions on the laws of war at boot camp. They received additional instruction at the School of Infantry and another session before they deployed for Afghanistan.
Military officials said the training review would examine whether current programs adequately educate Marines in standards of conduct and respect for the laws of armed conflict.
In addition to the incident in Afghanistan, Marine Staff Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, testified this week that he had urinated on a dead Iraqi in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005. Sgt. Dela Cruz was testifying in the trial of another Marine accused of killing civilians in Haditha.
Military officials said a Marine who was given even the most cursory training in the code of conduct should know better than to desecrate a corpse. "Do you really need a class to tell people not to pee on a corpse?" said the military officer.

How the Marines video made the Afghan war even tougher
Washington Post By Timothy Kudo Saturday, January 14, 2012
In March I returned from Afghanistan’s Helmand province after handing about 12 square miles of villages and farmlands to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, the unit that is allegedly responsible for recording a video of Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban insurgents. The actions of these few Marines have rightfully garnered widespread disdain, but for me the affront is personal. In a 42-second video, these Marines undid everything that my unit spent seven months working to accomplish.
Many civilians I’ve talked to about the incident act like it’s no surprise. Hollywood and media depictions have convinced them that war is filled with atrocities such as this one and that, but for lack of coverage, they’d hear more about them.
But those of us who have worn the uniform don’t excuse these acts by saying, “War is hell.” There’s right and wrong in war, and we probably know that better than anyone else, because we’ve seen the life-or-death consequences of our decisions.
Before my first deployment, though, I wondered if it was true. People don’t usually talk about the wars they fight in. Maybe it’s because the things they would say are dark and unjustifiable. But then I went to Iraq and Afghanistan, where I faced combat and death, and I discovered that it’s nothing of the sort.
There’s a shock the first time you deal with the aftermath of combat, but that soon subsides because there is a lot of work to be done. We would collect enemy bodies so we could engage in the macabre task of identifying them and gathering intelligence. When that was done, we’d hand the bodies over to the Afghan soldiers and police we worked with so that they could receive proper burial.
In my unit, I’m not ashamed to admit, we celebrated the death of the enemy. After one hard day in 2010 when we lost a Marine, we discovered two insurgents planting a bomb along a road. As the insurgents drove away, we shot a missile at them, killing one. Alongside the jubilation, we felt that justice had been served.
At the same time, the insurgent who survived the blast was brought by locals to one of our bases for medical attention. So amid the euphoria, we also provided aid to the enemy. Doing so was required to accomplish our mission of building local support.
But celebrating victory in battle is different than desecrating the dead. And it’s discipline and training that not only keep your moral compass pointing north, but also give you the courage to stop what you know is wrong. That’s what I saw time and again with 20-year-old corporals and lance corporals leading their units, ensuring that they didn’t stray from right into wrong. And that sense of morality is what I see missing in the video.
I can’t imagine what went through the heads of the men in the video, because desecrating the dead goes against every custom and value that the Marines hold dear. When the enemy is dead, they’re no longer treated like combatants. Despite the mortal conflict you’ve just engaged in, their humanity is revealed by their death. And in Afghanistan, you often have to look their family members in the eye as you hand over the body of their dead father, brother or son.
My mission with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines Regiment was to make our sector of northern Helmand province safe for Afghan civilians through a combination of state-building, political development and security operations. The fight was tough and the enemy frustrating, but we were successful because of our commitment to winning over the local populace.
During our deployment, we worked to make the roads safe, strengthen the local economy, and befriend villagers and our Afghan army and police counterparts. We knew that building trust required thousands of cups of chai, countless meals sitting cross-legged on mud hut floors and a deep respect for the local culture and traditions. Five Marines in my company died in Afghanistan doing just this. After returning to the United States, we stood at a memorial for them and told their families that their sacrifices weren’t in vain.
It was true then. But is it now?
Marines and all other service members understand intuitively the effect that this video will have on the war. Whatever comes of an investigation, this is a significant blow. Already, some are saying that this will affect peace talks. But the consequences for the Marines on the ground will be felt in the increase in bombs under their feet and bullets flying by their heads.
Before I left Afghanistan, we worked with the local government to install cellular towers in the area where this video was shot. Now, with a basic cellphone from the local bazaar, members of the Taliban can show villagers at every shura in the district what Marines do to Muslims when they’re dead.
That’s why my fellow Marines and I are infuriated by this video. We know there’s no moral gray area when it comes to dealing with the dead. When you’ve killed your enemy, the fight is over — and in Afghanistan, you hand the bodies over for a Muslim burial. If we can handle Osama bin Laden’s body with respect, we can do the same for an insurgent fighting for what he believes is his family pride.
My old unit is going back to Afghanistan now. Talking to the Marines before they left, I knew they were going into a tough fight. They’re headed to an area not too far from where we and the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines were stationed last year, and they’re going to do the right thing. Because that’s what the military does.
Except the fight just got a lot tougher.
Timothy Kudo, a Marine captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011, is a senior membership associate with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The U.S. has to make up its mind now on Afghanistan
Washington Post By Anthony H. Cordesman Opinions Saturday, January 14, 2012
Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He has written extensively on the Afghan war.
It may be fair to argue that the last thing the nation needs at the start of an election year is yet another budget crisis and another decade of war. Yet this is the path the United States appears to be taking in Afghanistan. U.S. officials are talking about removing all American troops from Afghanistan and about massive cuts in military spending as part of the “transition” to Afghan control of combat and civil governance operations in 2014. Given the lead times involved in funding and implementing such massive changes within two to three years, Washington really has only a few months in which to decide whether we will take on the burden of funding the Afghan government through 2014 and beyond, and whether we will provide most of the funds, advisers and partners that Afghan forces will need until 2020 and beyond.
There has been near silence about these issues from the Obama administration and every Republican presidential candidate. Yet working studies from the U.S. and British governments, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank show that the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan could plunge that country into a recession or depression by the end of 2014 unless Kabul receives a massive new aid package. Afghanistan would need major assistance to compensate for the phaseout of U.S. and allied military spending that has kept its economy alive during the past 10 years of war, to pay for the services its government must provide to win and retain the loyalty of its people, to pay for the military and security forces it must develop, and to sustain the government until the Taliban and other insurgents are defeated or accept a political settlement.
The Afghan government raised this need in a paper circulated at the international conference in Bonn, Germany, last month, but its call for aid got little attention in the international media or among U.S. politicians. President Hamid Karzai requested some $10 billion a year through 2025 for a program that set ambitious goals for security and development. He called for equally ambitious reforms and improvements in governance and for the Afghan government to achieve full independence by 2030.
The Afghan government paper tracked closely with World Bank studies showing just how critical such aid will be, given that U.S. and allied forces are due to leave in 24 to 36 months and that an Afghan presidential election is to be held in 2014.
The Karzai government estimated that the cost of continued spending on development and governance would equal 14 percent of the Afghan economy in 2015 and that at least 9 percent of its gross domestic product would have to come from foreign aid. The government further estimated that the cost of security would amount to 26 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product — costs driven by the 357,000 men in the Afghan forces we are seeking to create.
The money the Afghan government estimates it will need to pay for the required military and civil spending in its budget equals about half of the Afghan economy in 2015. That figure rises to 62 percent if the development spending needed in addition to other spending in the budget is considered. This is far more than the $10 billion a year in the Afghan aid request. And the Karzai government is all too correct in warning in its paper that “Substantial funding cuts in any of these areas undermine our ability to achieve our shared goal of a secure, sustainable Afghanistan.”
The question for the United States and its allies — particularly the American people, who would have to pay 80 percent or more of the necessary aid — is whether they are willing to make a $140 billion commitment in assistance to cover the period through at least 2025. In addition, will they provide U.S. and allied forces to fight on through 2014 and then provide the thousands of military advisers and partners — some of whom will have to go into combat? Afghanistan will need such military support for more than a decade after 2014 — unless Pakistan puts an end to insurgent sanctuaries within its borders and/or the insurgents accept a political settlement that is less than victory. Without such continued spending and military aid, the war in Afghanistan is certain to be lost. And given the track records of the Pakistan government and the poor and corrupt quality of Afghan governance, it may be lost in any case.
Now is the time to debate these issues and the future level of the U.S. commitment in money and forces. We do not need more good intentions and vague promises from the Obama administration. We do not need a vacuous set of positions from Republican presidential candidates who either do not understand the issues or fear addressing their cost. If the United States is to make this commitment we need to start making it now in every part of our posture and spending in Afghanistan — and be clear that we will do so through 2025. If not, we need to be honest about the consequences for some 30 million Afghans and their country.

5.0-magnitude quake hits Hindu Kush region, Afghanistan -- USGS
KABUL, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale jolted Hindu Kush region, Afghanistan at 22:50:00 GMT on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The epicenter, with a depth of 113.20 km, was initially determined to be at 35.9400 degrees north latitude and 70.5631 degrees east longitude.

386 newly graduates join Afghan National Police
KABUL, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Three hundred and eighty six policemen after completion of eight-week training course commissioned to Afghan National Police on Saturday.
According to officials, 261 newly graduated policemen after receiving certificates in Balkh provincial capital Mazar-e-Sharif city 305 km north of Afghan capital Kabul commissioned to National Police to discharge their responsibility.
"Today, 261 newly graduated young and energetic policemen commissioned to the National Police in Mazar-e-Sharif city and would be deployed to four northern provinces very soon to ensure law and order," the police chief of northern region Baba Jan told media after awarding certificates to the newly graduated policemen.
In a similar ceremony, 125 newly graduated policemen received their certificates in Ghazni city, the capital of Ghazni province 125 km south of Kabul.
"With commissioning these new policemen the law and order would be further strengthened in Ghazni province," police chief of Ghazni province Zarawar Zahid told journalists after a ceremony.
The strength of Afghan national police, according to officials, is more than 140,000 and would rise to 155,000 by 2014.

Afghan boy suicide bombers tell how they are brainwashed into believing they will survive
Child suicide bombers say they were told by their handlers that the "bombs would not kill us, only the Americans would die". By Ben Farmer 13 Jan 2012
Kandahar - The mission was as simple as touching two wires together, the little boy was promised. The resulting blast would obliterate the American infidels – but God would spare him from the flame and shrapnel. Abdul Samat would be unharmed and free to run back to the men who had fitted his bomb vest.
Blindfolded and rigged with his explosive payload, the boy, who was about 13, was driven to his target in the Afghan city of Kandahar, after being plucked from the streets of Quetta in neighbouring Pakistan. Minutes before he was due to execute the attack, however, Abdul realised the lies of his recruiters seeking to turn him into a human bomb.
"When I opened my eyes, I saw it was a very black thing they wanted me to do," he later recalled.
"I began to cry and shout. People came out of their houses and asked what was wrong. I showed them I had something in my vest. Then they were scared too and called the police who took the bombs off me."
Afghan security officials say that Abdul's story is not unusual. In the past year, insurgents have used a wave of child suicide bombers, some as young as 10, on the ruthless assumption that small boys can pass through checkpoints and security cordons more easily than men.
A senior Afghan intelligence official estimated that more than 100 had been intercepted in the past 12 months, including 20 from the Kandahar area in the south. The insurgents seek to exploit the innocence of their recruits and turn it into a weapon.
The largely illiterate boys are fed a diet of anti-Western and anti-Afghan government propaganda until they are prepared to kill, he said. But the boys are also assured that they will miraculously survive the devastation they cause.
"The worst part is that these children don't think that they are killing themselves," said the official. "They are often given an amulet containing Koranic verses. Mullahs tell them, 'When this explodes you will survive and God will help you survive the fire. Only the infidels will be killed, you will be saved and your parents will go to paradise'."
Throughout the war against the Soviet invaders in the 1980s, and the civil strife that followed, Afghan fighters of all factions rejected suicide attacks as cowardly and unIslamic.
The tactic was adopted only after 2001, learned from Arab jihadists who had used it to devastating effect in Iraq.
The first Afghan suicide bomber is believed to have been a man called Hafez Abdallah, who in 2004 threw himself on a military Jeep and detonated mortar bombs strapped to his body. Suicide bombs hidden in vehicles or sewn into vests have since been widely employed.
The Taliban denies using children as bombers, pointing out that its battlefield code forbids any military use of pre-pubescent boys. One Taliban facilitator from northern Afghanistan told The Daily Telegraph: "All our bombers are men and they are all volunteers. We never use boys."
But Nato and Afghan security officials said the tactic has been widely adopted. Child bombers had been used by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group aligned to the Taliban.
Boys are frequently chosen from the madrassas, or Islamic colleges, in Pakistan's tribal areas, where poor Pashtun families in southern Afghanistan send their sons for a free education.
"They send them because they can't feed them sometimes. They have 10 sons, they can't feed them," said the Afghan official.
Gul Khan, who looks no older than 10, said his father had insisted he go to a madrassa in Pakistan run by a man called Maulawi Sher Jan.
"Each day they were preaching that we would tie bombs on to our bodies and attack foreigners in Afghanistan," he said after escaping and being arrested on the border.
"They told us the bombs would not kill us, only the Americans would die and you can come back to us."
Many of the captured boys have been pardoned, but others remain in Afghanistan's child jails. Once in custody, they often retract their televised confessions, justice officials in Kandahar said.
Three convicted child suicide bombers, seen by The Daily Telegraph, all said their confessions had been false and they were wrongly convicted. Haji Abdul Haq, the juvenile prosecutor for Kandahar, denied pressure had been placed on them and said they were often caught wearing bomb vests. "They confess at first, but when their families reach them, they change their minds," he said.

Afghan solutions for Afghan women
Foreign Policy By Lael A. Mohib Friday, January 13, 2012
Audiences around the world were horrified to see the image of Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan girl whose nose had been cut off by her husband and his family, on the cover of an August 2010 issue of TIME Magazine. Western media outlets largely attributed Aisha's case to the Taliban, and portrayed it as a warning of what is to come for Afghan women once the international community withdraws from Afghanistan. The unfortunate reality is, though, that there are many other cases like hers happening today in Afghanistan, despite the presence and efforts of foreign troops and the international community over the last decade. The most recent case to make headlines was that of 15-year-old Sahar Gul, who had been locked in a basement and tortured for five months by her in-laws, allegedly because she refused efforts to force her into prostitution. These crimes were not perpetrated by the Taliban, but instead some of the most extreme manifestations of domestic violence in Afghanistan.
As former Taliban Minister of Foreign Affairs Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil said to me in an interview a year ago when I asked what he thought about the case of Bibi Aisha: "Even when the West are in Afghanistan, these things are still happening. It seems to me to be a family matter, what happened to this woman." In Afghanistan, everything is a family matter, and familial ties will continue to govern Afghan society long after international troops have left the scene. While attention is focused in Kabul on signing documents ensuring women's political participation and securing women's rights, there is very little trickle down from such progress to the majority of Afghan women living in rural areas. Instead of working from the top down, sustainable progress that can take root in conservative Afghan households can only be made by accepting the realities of rural Afghan society and working within existing cultural boundaries.
Taking a step back from the ‘quick impact' approach of mainstream international aid, one must consider the social realities of Afghanistan to define and support sustainable progress on women's socioeconomic and human rights. In reality, foreign and domestic governments, their policies and their troop presences, do not ultimately determine the opportunities available to most women -- the men in their families do. Progress and change must be acceptable to men as well as accessible to women.
In addition to the difficulty of encouraging men to see women's participation in society differently, some Afghan women themselves may struggle to redefine their roles. Donor organizations may not take into account the extent to which traditional, conservative gender roles are just as stubbornly ingrained in many Afghan women's minds as they are in many Afghan men's minds -- the notion that men provide, and that women are provided for.
While there are exceptions, in general rural Afghan women have been reared to see their domain as the home, and their job to raise children and serve their husbands. Thus, many may feel that any ambitions outside of the home are unnecessary, or that they aren't capable of achieving them. Furthermore, the prospect of taking on some traditionally male-dominated responsibilities, or even having a stronger presence outside of the home -- such as working or seeking higher education -- simply may not be desirable or even considered within the realm of possibility to some women.
A rural/urban dichotomy pervades Afghan history, which has shown that signs of ‘modernization' in Kabul do not necessarily signify fundamental changes in the rest of the country. What looks like great progress in women's equality in Kabul to the Western eye is often just a veneer, not the true picture. The visibility of women in Kabul in the workplace and in schools and universities, often without a burqa, gives the impression of notable change, but Kabul holds only a very small representation of Afghan women. While about 1.5 million women reside in Kabul, 13.5 million women live in rural areas and are not affected by the more lenient cosmopolitan environment in the capital.
Moreover, one must consider that if a woman wears a burqa, it may not be that she is forced to but, rather, that she chooses to. Personal choice is still important, even if one's society may limit one's choices. And while it is absolutely vital that female representatives have a voice in the peace and reconciliation process, as well as seats in parliament and other highly-visible opportunities, the significance of these and similar advancements is currently limited to symbolic importance.
Assuming that such social realities will persist far past 2014 into the next several decades, the key is to change attitudes gradually, working within current cultural boundaries. Before concentrating emphasis on women working outside of the home, the main focus now should be on expanding women's roles and voices inside the home. The majority of Afghan men I have spoken to about this do not oppose the idea of their wife, sister, or daughter working outside the home or pursuing further education; rather, their opposition to it in practice comes from a fear of how others in their community or extended family may judge them. Breaking a cultural taboo sparks a plague of gossip that has the potential to destroy a family's reputation, particularly when it concerns the integrity of women, who represent a family's honor.
Women throughout the country can and do capitalize on their abilities in socially and culturally acceptable ways already. There are many examples of women who have started small, home-based enterprises, fulfilling a community or market need through activities such as in-home embroidery or carpet-weaving, keeping poultry to sell eggs, or tending bees to sell the honey and wax, which can all be supported with micro-finance grants.
Investment must also be made in vocational training for rural women. In this regard, the people who can best fulfill the needs of Afghan women are other Afghan women. Trained midwives in Afghanistan could be encouraged to teach others the skills of midwifery, while women who are literate could be supported to organize and teach literacy or Quran study classes in their homes.
Such home-grown efforts should be supported through locally-tailored, Afghan-led programs that provide micro-finance assistance and vocational trainings. Programs should appeal to and involve men, as well, helping them see the positive aspects of enabling women. For example, I once met an older woman from Bamyan who had learned how to install solar panels and had then enlisted the help of her brothers to start a solar panel installation and repair company servicing her community.
If a woman can contribute to her family or community in culturally acceptable ways, men may start to recognize women not just as a housekeeper and caretaker, but also as an individual who can generate some income for the household or make needed contributions to the community, placing women on a more level playing field with men. Furthermore, such activities give women a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem, attitudes that are invariably passed down to future generations.
Aside from contributions inside the home, women and girls should also be shown and told of their gender's potential and rights outside of the home. Generating public dialogue and storytelling of exemplary women in the community, religion, or country through radio programs that seed messages of women's empowerment in communities far outside of Kabul is one way to accomplish this.
Education is another invaluable form of empowerment, and the progress made in women's education, even in rural areas, is commendable. Education can breed a hunger for knowledge, one that Afghan girls (and boys) are experiencing now as schools proliferate across the country. Their mothers, as well, may curiously observe their children studying in the evenings and be inspired to seek out education. While girls' enrollment in primary school was up to 2.4 million in 2010 from 5,000 during the Taliban regime, according the Afghan Ministry of Education, Afghan girls today rarely progress to secondary and high school, yet there is still promise of a generational process of change. If a mother never attended school, but she fights for her daughter's right to do so, one can hope that the granddaughter would eventually be in a position to attend high school or even university.
Women also need to see that they have some place in the public sphere. Culturally acceptable places for women to gather publicly such as women-only parks, prayer areas, and public gathering spaces, need to be created so that women can feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging in some place outside the home. It is rare to find a place delegated for women to pray in a mosque in Afghanistan, which is a shame for a country that places Islam at center of its society. Finding a restaurant in Jalalabad that accommodates women, even accompanied by close male relatives, is a challenge. Just one park in Kabul is dedicated to women.
While the impending withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014 has dredged up the topic of the fate of Afghan women, mainstream aid efforts to help Afghan women have been generally off-target, in a society and culture that the international community can sometimes be quick to judge, but resistant to comprehend. The ‘Afghan women' topic has become a talking point for politicians, a popular focus area for donors, and a dramatic headline for media, all demanding too much, too fast from a mainly rural society bound tightly to its conservative culture.
NATO should not be cast in the role of savior -- the idea that NATO should be responsible for safeguarding Afghan women's rights is to make the patronizing assumption that foreign money, applied with foreign standards, in the midst of a foreign-led war, is the key to launching a culture and society into a more Western-style one. The aim should be to encourage and support Afghan women, and men, to make changes in their own lives, on their own terms, and at their own pace.
Lael A. Mohib works in community and rural development in Afghanistan, and has an M.A. in International Relations with a focus on Afghanistan from Boston University.
Contributions to this article were made by Hamdullah Mohib, who served as a senior aide to Dr. Ashraf Ghani during the 2009 Afghan presidential elections, and is now studying for his PhD at Brunel University.

In Afghanistan, military success and overall failure
Foreign Policy By Kori Schake Friday, January 13, 2012
The LA Times is carrying an interesting and important story about the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of the war in Afghanistan. The NIE is classified, but has been briefed to Congress (Congressional sources seem to have formed the basis for the article). The article states that the intelligence community has concluded that while the military has made significant gains against the Taliban, the war has ground to a stalemate. It cites three causes for the stalemate: (1) pervasive corruption and incompetence by the Afghan government; (2) sanctuary for Taliban in Pakistan; and (3) reductions in U.S. forces.
The commentariat will have a feeding frenzy on the Director of Central Intelligence supporting a set of conclusions he had objected to last year when he was commander of the war effort in Afghanistan. But Dave Petraeus' reaction is the least interesting part of this story.
If the LA Times is accurate (and they have the best reporting on the middle east of any American newspaper), the NIE is going to be very damaging to the war effort. It also sounds about right in its assessment: we are militarily winning the war, but badly hindered by the shoddy Afghan government and the willingness of Pakistan to assist the Taliban. The NIE itself is quoted to question the viability of the Karzai government, even before the U.S. withdraws its troops.
The NIE evidently earned a formal protest from the entire leadership fighting the war, including General Mattis, the CENTCOM commander (responsible for all the Middle East and South Asia); Admiral Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (it is a NATO mission); General Allen, the Afghan war commander; and Ambassador Crocker, the Ambassador in Afghanistan. Among their reported objections are that the NIE bases its analysis on the assumption that all U.S. troops will depart Afghanistan in 2014; the Afghan war team insist that decision has not been made.
I hope they're right. The central problem with President Obama's strategy for the war in Afghanistan has always been his deadline. The Taliban claim that we have the watches, but they have the time. And the President has already compromised our war effort(s) by setting deadlines for troop withdrawals that are unconnected to the end states his strategy seeks to achieve.
Our exit strategy for Afghanistan is to build an Afghan government, including security forces, that can do the work Americans are fighting and dying to succeed at now. That's both sensible and achievable, the only way to make our gains more than transitory. But nothing in the Administration's choices about either Iraq or Afghanistan suggests they will allow facts on the ground to determine the pace of their drawdown.
The Obama Administration scored a lot of cheap points against their predecessor by hailing the arrival of "smart power" -- using political, military, and economic means in seamless orchestration. If reports of the NIE are accurate, it would be a terrible condemnation of the Administration's efforts. For only the American military has proven able to achieve any effect in the complex task of nation building in Afghanistan, and it has done so without either the political or diplomatic support necessary to make their achievements durable.

Pakistan’s President, Army Chief Meet Amid Tensions
VOA News January 14, 2012
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has met with the country's army chief for talks, amid tensions between Pakistan's civilian government and its powerful military.
Pakistani officials say Mr. Zardari held talks Saturday with army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss the security situation in the country. Officials gave no other details on the meeting.
Later Saturday, General Kayani and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani attended a meeting before the government's defense committee.
In an apparent effort to defuse tensions, Mr. Gilani said at the meeting that Pakistan's government and parliament have stood fully behind the military. He also said Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity are non-negotiable.
Tensions between the government and military stem from an unsigned memo that allegedly sought U.S. help to prevent a military coup in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Supreme Court is investigating the memo, which was allegedly sent by a Pakistani official to the U.S. military last year.
A few days ago, Mr. Gilani fired Pakistan's defense secretary for his role in submitting statements to the Supreme Court made by two top security officials.
Mr. Gilani also accused the two officials, army chief Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence head Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, of acting unlawfully by making unilateral submissions to the Supreme Court inquiry.
Those remarks prompted Pakistan's military to warn of “grievous consequences” for the country.
A Supreme Court-appointed panel is probing the origins of the unsigned memo in which Pakistan's civilian government asked for U.S. help in reining in the Pakistani military following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.
The existence of the memo surfaced in October when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz accused the then-Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, of writing the memo. Haqqani denies writing the document and has since resigned.
The army has ruled Pakistan for most of its existence since independence from Britain in 1947. There have been three military coups in Pakistan, and no civilian government has ever completed its term in office.

Women's Literacy Makes Headway in Afghan West
Courses teach women to read and write, defying prejudice against female education
IWPR By Jalil Mohammadi 13 Jan 12
Afghanistan - Nazira looked up proudly from a notebook bearing a United Nations logo to show a series of words written in red ink.
Six months ago, Nazira could neither read nor write, but the 27-year-old from Afghanistan’s western Herat province is now able to transcribe the names of her two children, her father and husband.
Her literacy skills may still be basic, but she is confident enough to reads out a verse from a Persian poem, saying, “Whoever acquires knowledge is qualified and capable.”
Opposition to women’s education lingers on in rural Afghanistan, but the last decade has seen significant improvements in this western province.
There are 660 literacy courses running in Herat’s villages and districts, of which 558 are for women like Nazira, according to Abdul Nasir Maududi, who oversees the courses for the education ministry.
Provincial officials hope the courses will enable women to play a fuller role in society, and also help discourage domestic violence.
Each course typically has 20 to 30 students; Nasima Hussaini, a teacher in Karukh district, has been teaching 21 students for the last year.
“While serving illiterate women in my society, I can also contribute to my family by earning a salary,” she told IWPR. “I’m hoping that thanks to these courses, changes are already taking place for Afghan women.”
Women attending the courses say they find them hugely empowering. Not all Afghan husbands will allow their wives to study or work, and Hussaini is grateful to her husband Sayed Nasruddin Nik-Nam for his backing.
Nik-Nam oversees the district’s literacy courses, and is proud of his wife’s contribution. Her work has also changed the dynamic of their domestic life.
“When my wife is busy teaching, I do the chores at home. In my opinion, there is no problem with women being educated,” Nik-Nam said.
Most of the courses are in the districts closest to Herat city – Injil, followed by Zinda Jan and Karukh. Maududi said Muslim clerics and the media have been engaged in the campaign to get women to learn to read and write.
The courses were set up by the UN children’s fund UNICEF, while the World Food Programme has provided foodstuffs to act as an incentive for participants. Sayed Mokaram, a literacy course officer in Karukh, said each student received 25 kilograms of wheatgrain and three litres of cooking oil per month in return for attending.
“We and the other agencies have two aims here –first, to assist needy households, and second, to make them literate,” Mokaram said.
The food handouts are key to the attendance of some students.
“When I take the wheat and cooking oil home to my husband, he’s very happy,” Magul, a 40-year-old in Karukh, said. “Many men might not let their wives attend if it weren’t for the food distribution.”
Despite the food handouts, though, there are still plenty of men in Herat who are reluctant to allow their wives to study.
Gulsom, a 24-year-old resident of Guzara district, would like to learn to read but her husband Mohammad Nabi is preventing her.
He believes women should stay at home and do the housework, and men should not allow their wives to be part of the world outside.
“I’m illiterate and I don’t have any problems in life,” he said. “What would be the point of my wife learning to read and write?”
Some clerics in Herat have helped maintain such beliefs.
According to Maulawi Mohammad Ismail, a religious scholar in Guzara district, “There is no reference in Islam to indicate that education is essential for women.”
However, education ministry official Maududi, who has a degree in Islamic studies from Herat University, disputed this, saying that when the Koran discusses the importance of knowledge, it does not mention either men or women, implying that education is important for both.
Fatema Yusefi, who sits on the women’s council in Injil’s Ghelwan village, urged people to ignore mullahs who oppose women’s education.
“This is a right that Islam has given us,” she said. “Education is the right of every human being.”
Shugofa, 34, managed to persuade her husband to allow her to learn to read, with some difficulty.
“Attending the literacy course is very important to me because I had to do so much to get permission,” she said.
Jalil Mohammadi is an IWPR-trained reporter in Herat.
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