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this to me is as much as admitting defeat,they'll get out as soon as they can now



If they get out they will only leave a power vacuum and death behind them.If NATO leaves now, they have truly f*cked up that country.
everybody who's ever gone in there has left with a bloody nose,leaving behind the usual mess,nato should at least have read up on history and tried something else
i think they need to say 12 months, if we haven't done the job by then we'll leave. still at least the afghan people were allowed to read books for a while and go to school.
seriously, 2 thirds.

thats scandalous. isn't there any way to help them
learn to read and write?

what about the kids?

can we allow a little leeway with this thread please, as along as it doesn't upset anyone?
it's about control,that's exactly right,there's no regime in afghanistan,it's tribal warfare all the time,if you step in and try to sort it out,as soon as you leave it'll start up again,let the people there come up with their own solutions,which might be totally mideval but hey how long ago was it that women weren't allowed to vote in europe or niggers not allowed to mix with whites in america?leave them alone,it's outside interferance that does the serious damage,is it from russia,pakistan or the nato
(06-12-2010, 10:02 AM)srijantje Wrote: [ -> ]it's about control,that's exactly right,there's no regime in afghanistan,it's tribal warfare all the time,if you step in and try to sort it out,as soon as you leave it'll start up again,let the people there come up with their own solutions,which might be totally mideval but hey how long ago was it that women weren't allowed to vote in europe or niggers not allowed to mix with whites in america?leave them alone,it's outside interferance that does the serious damage,is it from russia,pakistan or the nato
afghan is the holy grail when it comes to terrorists bolt hols.

as far as leavinging.

the first iraq war proved you can't just leave 7 days after you enter.
while i agree the iraq war this time went on way to long it has given the country some kind of stability.

afghan was and is a different kettle of fish. for me it's more a human rights thing.

people are sometimes forced to work for the taliban.
girls have acid thrown in their faces and made to 2nd class citizens. and please don't tell me this is what the women want. i've seen too many of them say it isn't. children are not allowed to be taught in school etc (weren't allowed)

is the war there right or wrong, i truth i don't know. i do think it's infective. i do think some countries should be cordon sanitare (sp)
when i went there the first time[1960's]it wasn't like that at all,at least not in Kabul where lots of young women were wearing skirts and nylon stockings among others in burkas,in the rural areas it was mostly burkas exept among the nomads[kutchis]where women don't hide their faces and are dressed up in very colourfull clothes.now for one reason or other you start bombing them litterarily back into the middleages,that has an effect on all levels.if you stop enterfering now there will be internal upheaval for decades to come until it settles down and then maybe slowly things can start progressing again out of the middle ages.
on a side note,the whole taliban idea came mostly from pakistan and the pashtoon tribe[karzai ] which is big in both countrys.stop interfering and let them sort it out themselves
here is quite an interesting article on what's happening on a local level

n late 2007, in Pashmul, a tiny cluster of villages in southern Afghanistan, Muhammad Khan began his tenure as the police commander by torching all the hemp in a farmer’s field. Farmers in the area had grown plants up to seven feet tall, and, being teetotallers, like many Afghans, they smoked hashish constantly. Afghan soldiers and policemen in the area also smoked, to the exasperation of the NATO troops who were training them. But Khan wasn’t from Pashmul and he didn’t smoke. He ordered his men to set the harvest ablaze, moved upwind, then turned his back and left, with an expression of indifference.
Khan and his police officers are members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority, identifiable among Afghans because of their Asiatic features; the population they patrol is Pashtun. Hazaras are mostly Shia, with a history of ties to Iran, whereas most Pashtuns are Sunni and have turned to Pakistan for support. Over the past century, the two peoples have fought periodically, and the Hazaras, who are thought to make up between nine and nineteen per cent of Afghanistan’s population—the Pashtuns make up nearly half—have usually lost. On the border between the Hazara heartland, in the country’s mountainous and impoverished center, and the Pashtun plains in the south and east, conflicts over grazing land are common. But, working alongsideNATO soldiers, Hazara police units are now operating far to the south of these traditional battlegrounds and deep into Pashtun territory.
The Pashmul base is just outside the city of Kandahar, in one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions. Last year, the Taliban all but wiped out the Afghan National Police, or A.N.P., squads there. Deploying Hazaras in this region is a risky move, and comes at a time when Taliban bombings and assassinations are making clear the failure of the U.S.-led NATO coalition and the Afghan government to secure the country. Recently, a draft of a National Intelligence Estimate said that increasingly effective insurgent attacks and widespread corruption in President Hamid Karzai’s government have eroded the government’s authority, and concluded that the country is in a “downward spiral.” And a leaked diplomatic cable quoted the British Ambassador as saying that “the presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution.” If the coalition were to leave, the country would be left with the ragtag Afghan National Army, or A.N.A., which deploys wherever it is needed to fight the Taliban in counter-insurgency battles, and the A.N.P., which is responsible for street-level law enforcement and now bears the brunt of the Taliban insurgency. (Last year, nearly four times as many Afghan police were killed as soldiers.) Among Afghans, the A.N.P. has become known for incompetence and corruption. Units like Khan’s, made up of a despised minority with an unsparing attitude toward those they police, embody many of the paradoxes involved in trying to bring order to Afghanistan’s ethnically fissured society.
n July, I visited Pashmul’s police base, a small installation about twice as large as a tennis court and surrounded by ditches and razor wire. Nearby are crumbling Pashtun villages of mud-brick homes, sprinkled with trash and unexploded ordnance. Pashmul is ideal terrain for an insurgency. The main sources of livelihood, other than hemp and poppies, are grapes and pomegranates, and, during the summer fighting season, foliage in fields and orchards provides cover for insurgents. Because farmers are too poor to use wooden frames in their vineyards, their grapevines are supported by deep furrows cut in the earth; thus in an apparently empty field hundreds of Taliban may be hidden. Grape huts, scattered around the fields, have mud walls thick enough to stop bullets, and narrow ventilation slits that can accommodate rifle barrels. Fighting has caused many Pashmul residents to flee to a temporary camp in the desert, from which they trek several miles each morning to cultivate the fields.
Khan’s police unit patrols a war zone, and the men often do the work of soldiers rather than of normal beat police officers. Although the Army lends support when the police encounter armed resistance, the soldiers then retreat to a base outside Pashmul. On most days, the police patrol the alleys alone, except for a few Canadian soldiers whom NATO has assigned to train and mentor them. Taliban snipers routinely fire at the base’s wooden guard towers, and the Hazara policemen fire back. They watch the rickety pickups that pass on a paved road along the base’s eastern edge, on the lookout for suicide bombers. Khan’s men know the faces in each village, but they remain an alien presence. One man, who sold goats to the Hazara policemen, would say hello to the patrol when it walked past his home; his corpse later turned up in the next village.
Now in his late twenties, Muhammad Khan has an intense manner and an unsettling stare. When I met him, he gave me an appraising look, his glare landing on the book in my hand, Paul Theroux’s “My Secret History.” Khan asked me, in Persian, what I was reading, and, struggling to recall the word for “novel,” I said it was “a book.” He gave me the same suspicious look I later saw when he confronted frightened farmers about insurgents in their fields. “That much I can see,” he said. “Is it a novel?”
Khan’s directness enables him to work efficiently with his Canadian supervisors—particularly Mike Vollick, a warrant officer stationed at Khan’s police base. An infantryman, Vollick is thirty-seven and of medium height, with sturdy arms that, when I met him, five months after his arrival in Pashmul, were scabby from dozens of sand-fly bites. The Canadians and the Hazaras communicate reasonably well, although they mostly use a translator and don’t have more than a few dozen words in common, most of which describe military equipment. Vollick considers Khan the most effective Afghan police commander he has seen, and an ideal candidate for district police chief, although, given Khan’s inability to speak Pashto, the local language, and the strength of Pashtun prejudice, this would be an unlikely appointment.
Khan enforces high standards—the men’s blue-gray uniforms are tidy, and military routine is strictly followed—which are all the more impressive given the lack of discipline and infighting in most Afghan police units. The men enjoy the slightly giddy camaraderie of a team under permanent siege, and they are bold fighters, though their zeal often exceeds the behavior that might be expected of a group given the task of winning the trust of an uneasy citizenry. Once, when Vollick called off a planned patrol into Taliban territory for tactical reasons, he had to assuage the Hazaras’ sense of honor by explaining why he had not led the group into battle.
The day before I arrived, Vollick and Khan, after months of long-range firefights across fields and vineyards, had planned an ambush of Taliban who, villagers said, sometimes gathered at a cemetery some five hundred yards from the base. The Hazaras took up a position near the cemetery, and soon two men carrying heavy blankets rounded a corner and passed a mud wall. Vollick stayed back to watch how the policemen behaved. They passed the first test by not immediately killing both men. But as soon as Khan’s men called for the Talibs to halt, they dropped the blankets and raised Kalashnikov assault rifles that were hidden underneath. The Hazaras outdrew them, and one policeman—who looked several years younger than his stated age of eighteen—emptied an entire magazine at one of the men, who fell dead with more than twenty bullets in his chest. The other man scrambled away, wounded.
The Hazara men had never been this close to their enemy before, and they were eager to pursue the wounded man. But Vollick shouted at them to stay where they were, fearing that they would be led into a trap. “They were losing their minds, they were so excited,” Vollick told me later.
The dead man wore an orange skullcap, a loose shalwar kameez, sandals that the Hazaras identified as Pakistani, and Chinese military webbing that held his ammunition and weapons. Vollick found a small book of names and phone numbers, as well as a rusted rifle whose stock had been shortened for easy concealment. Moments later, the group heard shots nearby. Another patrol had encountered a third insurgent, and two policemen killed him at point-blank range.
Soon, insurgents began shooting wildly from a concealed position. Vollick ordered a retreat, and the group ran through the alleys toward the base. The policemen moved with their Kalashnikovs raised, and Vollick shouted at them to lower their weapons, to avoid shooting innocent farmers. The group returned with no casualties other than its composure and professionalism; the Hazaras had behaved more like a paramilitary group than like a professional police team. They hung the rusty rifle on a wall as a trophy. In the next days, every Hazara I met pointed to it with pride. That evening, they listened eagerly to the Taliban’s radio channels, which featured confused messages about someone named Bashir. Villagers later reported that the wounded man had died.
Two days later, Vollick, sitting in the base’s kitchen, with his back to a wall of M.R.E.s and granola bars, described the operation as a success. Police had subsequently picked up a suspected insurgent leader in the area, and Vollick ascribed the capture to Taliban panic resulting from the ambush. “We hit them when we chose, and they had no idea who did it or how,” he said. When he said “we,” he gestured to the Hazaras’ sleeping quarters, twenty feet away. “It was a psychological victory.” The Hazaras I spoke with described the sprint back to the base, easily the most dangerous moment of the ambush, with nonchalance. Muhammad Hussein—the boy who killed the first Talib—chain-smoked as he described it. “It wasn’t that serious,” he said. “They launched one rocket, but it was far from us.” But Vollick, a professional warrior, remembered the sprint differently. “We were running for our fucking lives,” he said.
he Hazaras trace their bloodline to soldiers of Genghis Khan who settled in Afghanistan in the thirteenth century. Some scholars doubt this pedigree, but Hazara mothers remind their children of their Mongol heritage by addressing them as “bachah-ye Moghol”—“child of Mongols”—to teach them good manners. In the late nineteenth century, the Hazaras were among several groups who revolted against Abdur Rahman Khan, Afghanistan’s Pashtun king. They lost badly, and Khan built towers of Hazara skulls as a lesson to the survivors. Most of the surviving Hazaras fell into poverty, doing the work of draft animals and slaves. Pashtun nomads seized Hazara-held pastures and farmland at the southern foot of the mountains in central Afghanistan.
The British noted the Hazaras’ role as servants and manual laborers in Kabul, and saw an opportunity. The Orientalist Edward Balfour, though he described the Hazaras as “unblushing beggars and thieves,” went on to write, “Some of the clans have a military repute; they would make good soldiers, and might have risen to distinction, but they are disunited.” Lord Kitchener directed the Indian Army to create a unit of Hazaras, along the lines of the Nepalese Gurkhas, and in 1904 the 106th Hazara Pioneers was formed. Known for fine marksmanship, the regiment fought in France in the First World War and in Baghdad in the early nineteen-twenties.
During the rest of the twentieth century, Pashtuns further encroached on Hazara land, and extremist Sunni clerics declared the murder of Hazaras a righteous act. In the nineteen-eighties, the Soviet occupation largely spared the Hazara homeland, but they mounted an insurgency nonetheless, singing revolutionary songs whose villains were Pashtuns rather than Soviets. By the nineteen-nineties, when the Sunni Taliban formed around Mullah Omar, the Hazaras had found an Iranian-backed Shiite, Abdul Ali Mazari, to oppose him. Mazari led Hazara attacks on the Taliban, but, in 1995, he was captured, tortured, and thrown from a helicopter near Ghazni, southwest of Kabul. After Mazari, no Hazara leader reached national prominence until the formation of the Karzai government, in 2002. During the Taliban ascendancy, Muhammad Khan and all his men lived in Iran, as refugees. Khan himself has spent twenty years there—most of his life—and he speaks with a slight Iranian accent. Having been treated poorly as refugees, these Hazaras have no lingering fondness for Iran, but they have benefitted from the country’s superior educational standards. This, together with their determination to reëstablish themselves in what some Hazaras regard as their ancestral homeland, makes them effective janissaries for NATO.
The formation of police units like Khan’s gives the Hazaras greater authority outside their own territory than they’ve had in a century. It is also a classic counter-insurgency gambit. Tom Donnelly, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, who has undertaken a book-length study of NATO in Afghanistan, compares it to the American use of Shiite militias to fight Sunni insurgency in Iraq. “It’s a common tactic in irregular warfare situations to pit the rivalries of an ethnically diverse populace against each other,” he told me. The difficulty is finding a way to avoid unleashing a dispossessed minority on a rampage of revenge against the group it is asked to control.
Alessandro Monsutti, an anthropologist who has studied the Hazaras, fears that the short-term gain of the Hazara units’ efficacy may be outweighed by long-term harm. “They’re very efficient for narrow, military targets,” he told me. “But what about rebuilding the country?” Donnelly, too, acknowledges that the use of ethnic militias could lead to explosive retribution whenNATO leaves Afghanistan. (European use of privileged local minorities in colonial Africa contributed to the continent’s most destructive post-colonial wars, including the Rwandan genocide.) The Hazaras have not, historically, fared well in combat with the Pashtuns, although the policemen at Pashmul seem eager to try their luck. When Vollick asked them where he could get more police like them, they replied that they could raise a militia of a thousand men in their homeland, in Daykundi Province.
At the command level, the decision to exploit one of Afghanistan’s least noted and most bitter ethnic rivalries seems to have been improvised rather than planned. I asked Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the top Canadian commander, about Khan’s unit, and he emphasized the similarity between Hazaras and Pashtuns, rather than the differences. “The advantage of any Afghan, regardless of their ethnicity, is that they get a better measure of what’s going on on the ground than we could ever get,” he said. “They know when something is amiss in this district.” No NATO officer I met seemed to appreciate the full significance of the Hazara-Pashtun rivalry.
t least in the short term, the deployment of Hazara police in Pashtun areas seems to have worked well, especially in the context of the ineffectiveness of Pashtun units and the area’s slide toward Taliban control. Less than a mile from the Hazaras’ base, the Taliban have trenches and permanent defensive positions. Vollick told me that beyond the trenches there were recreation areas and field hospitals for insurgents, a safe area invaluable for launching attacks on the city of Kandahar.
The Afghan security forces can blame at least part of their failure on geography. The Pashmul region is near Pakistan and is a common first stop for foreign fighters. Historically, too, it has been a center of insurgency. According to one NATO officer, the Soviet occupation never really controlled Pashmul’s district, despite assigning an entire division to it. And it was at Singesar, a village west of Pashmul, that, in 1994, Mullah Omar organized the militia that became the Taliban. The village remains a Taliban center, and last May NATO opted to abandon it, after deciding that the effort of maintaining the small base there could not be justified in terms of resources. No NATO or Afghan government soldier has stepped openly into Singesar since.
Still, policing efforts have been greatly hindered by the fact that indigenous police forces who worked with Vollick before Khan’s unit came to the region shirked their duties and sometimes even collaborated with the Taliban by letting them pass armed through checkpoints. “The Pashtuns just want to eat, sleep, and collect a paycheck,” one Canadian soldier at Pashmul told me. “They come here and they know the people here. And they’d say to each other, ‘If you find a weapon, don’t tell the Canadians.’ ” At one point, the Pashmul base experimented with a mixture of Pashtun and Tajik police, but the unit, after sustaining severe losses at the hands of the Taliban, refused to leave the base. When finally shamed into patrolling, they sang songs as they marched, and wrapped plastic flowers around their rifle barrels.
Soon after I left the Hazara police camp, I had the opportunity to see how an ethnically mixed security force operates, on a mission with the A.N.A. About a mile from Vollick’s base, at the border of a large vineyard and a garden of hemp plants, I met Captain Simon Cox, a ten-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, who had spent a few months mentoring A.N.A. units. Two days earlier, NATO artillery strikes had destroyed a Taliban position. Footage from a Predator drone suggested that Taliban soldiers had suffered serious injuries and that, more interestingly, villagers had surrounded and stoned wounded Talibs as they tried to crawl away. Cox’s mission was to lead soldiers to the village to find out what had happened, and to see whether they could harness any anti-Taliban feeling. Some areas haven’t seen a patrol in years, so even farmers who might sympathize with the government lack any guarantee that the government will protect them if they oppose the Taliban. “How are these people supposed to know about their government and support it when there’s no police there?” Cox asked.
The men on duty were not inattentive, but they seemed fundamentally unserious. They lacked initiative, and sat back and murmured to one another while the Canadians interviewed a local farmer. The Canadians barely spoke with their A.N.A. contingent at all, and the Afghan soldiers seemed to regard it as their principal duty to stand in place while the Canadians conducted their search.
The team cornered a farmer, who confirmed that some villagers had persuaded the Taliban to set up their heavy machine gun in another area, in case the Canadians sent in artillery to destroy the position. The team seized on the disclosure as a sign that the villagers could rise up against the Taliban. The farmer shook his head. “No,” he said. “We can argue with you. Not with them. If we say just one thing against the insurgents, they will come and kill us.”
“Have the insurgents come back to say that to you?” the Canadian asked.
The farmer leaned in and looked around. “They always come here.”
Soon afterward, Cox received word that some insurgents were just a few hundred yards away. An unmanned aerial vehicle had spotted men clustering south of us, across a vineyard and near a suspected weapons cache. Cox summoned an A.N.A. quick-reaction force, to support an assault against the position. Half an hour later, no one had arrived, and Cox was furious. He yelled at his counterpart in the Afghan forces, stabbing his finger at the soldier, who was suppressing a laugh: “I’m asking you if they’re ready to come here and help us fight. If you want to take this job half-assed, then fucking get out of the Army.”
When the Afghan quick-response force arrived, its soldiers stood looking dazed. We started to move toward the insurgents’ position by fanning in two directions—one of the most basic tactical maneuvers an infantry unit can attempt. The Afghans now looked slightly frightened—less of the Taliban ambush than of their officer, an Afghan captain trained by Green Berets. As he issued commands through a radio, the soldiers moved down the road and into the vineyard, correctly enough but with uneasy attention to detail, like a troupe of dancers staring at their feet. When we had closed half the distance, I crouched in a furrow, amid grapevines, until a soldier ahead of me—a stubbly, spindly man with a backpack full of rocket-propelled grenade warheads—yelped “Gun!” and pointed at the ambush point.
Seeing a weapon triggered the rules of engagement, and we ran toward the position. I kept my head low, looking at the ground a few steps ahead of me to avoid I.E.D.s. We leaped over an irrigation ditch, and, when I looked up to make sure I was still running in the right direction, I saw the soldier again. He had his grenade-launcher in one hand and, in the other, a colossal bunch of grapes, which he had started to eat. By the time we arrived at the place where the surveillance had spotted the insurgents, the Taliban had long since vanished back into the surrounding villages. As we stood in the empty Taliban position, I noticed that most of the Afghan soldiers carried grapes that they had picked up during the maneuver, and that they looked pleased.
han and Vollick’s relationship is rare and exemplary among NATO soldiers and their Afghan counterparts. Other commanders in Vollick’s position have had to pressure their Afghan counterparts to lead their men into unfriendly areas. Vollick is able to rely on Khan’s initiative. Khan keeps the watchtowers manned, and insures that policemen are properly armed for patrolling. During planning, Vollick and Khan discuss tactics and the day’s operations, and when they leave the base they walk together, conferring about which houses they need to inspect more closely, and which villagers are lying.
While in Pashmul, I followed a routine patrol. It was a couple of days after the ambush, and the men marched in an evenly spaced, disciplined line, with Khan and Vollick near the front and Khan’s second-in-command in the rear. The Canadians wore brown camouflage and a standard array of body armor and ammunition. Khan wore a ballistic helmet, but several other Hazaras wore nothing but their uniforms and a few ammunition magazines.
Within minutes of leaving the base, we were twisting through Pashmul’s narrow mud-walled alleys. Khan sometimes called out the name of his second-in-command over the radio to make sure that both ends of the patrol remained in touch. The men fell silent, and for ten minutes at a time communicated only in gestures, punctuated by the single word harakat, “movement,” passed down the line to signal that the group should continue forward. They were watchful because of the possibility of an ambush— Taliban spotters monitor the patrols from the moment they leave the base—but also, it seemed, because alertness appealed to them. They sometimes sprang off the path recklessly to inspect a piece of suspicious trash, and they burst through doors, hoping to surprise anyone hiding inside. On that morning, though, the village was empty and silent. Khan and Vollick went to a suspected Taliban flophouse; the only sign of human habitation was a wooden table in the courtyard, with tomatoes on top, drying in the sun.
When the patrol encountered residents, Khan and Vollick asked them about Taliban in the area, and received jittery and unhelpful answers. Neither spoke Pashto, but through a translator they managed to perform a kind of good-cop, bad-cop act. Vollick approached two old men sitting outside a house, and asked about Taliban. The response was cordial but evasive. Vollick repeated a line, familiar by now to the villagers, about NATO’s desire to make sure the government could meet their needs for schools and wells. While the men spoke, Khan rolled his eyes in operatic boredom and instructed his men to search the building and to frisk every passerby. The villagers obviously regarded Khan and Vollick as equally foreign. They denied any knowledge of Taliban activity, but, as Khan’s aggressiveness and suspicion grew, they gave Vollick more and more desperate excuses for not coöperating—they were afraid, they said, and hadn’t seen any insurgents anyway. Two other men and a teen-ager looked at us over the walls, perhaps close enough to report back to insurgents on what was said.
The next evening, I watched the sunset from one of the guard towers with Khan, Vollick, and Abbas, a senior Hazara policeman in his late twenties. When cars rolled by on the paved road next to the tower, Abbas stared the occupants down, his hand on his machine gun.
Khan and Vollick leaned on a parapet and chatted, as one commander to another. Through a translator, Khan argued with Vollick, and even flatly disagreed with him. When Vollick claimed that an area had a weapons cache, Khan spoke with authority, citing a lack of armed Taliban presence. “There’s no weapons cache. If there were, they’d fight for it every day, ” he said. From the way he spoke, it was clear that the Hazaras saw their work as less a matter of policing fellow-citizens than of patrolling enemy territory.
Abbas stayed silent nearby. When Khan and Vollick left for dinner, he told me that he had another four or five months left before his next ten-day leave. He seldom talks to his wife and daughter, because his hundred-dollar monthly salary won’t pay for a calling card. “Afghanistan’s broken,” he said. The weak economy, he told me, had driven him to join the A.N.P. As for relations between Pashtuns and Hazaras, he said, “We like Pashtuns, but the Pashtuns don’t like us. We’d like Persian people and Pashtuns to get along, but they don’t want it.”
Below us, the off-duty policemen were singing songs to the accompaniment of a guitar made from an old camping-fuel can. From the tower, Abbas scanned the road and peered into a thermal imager that showed a night-vision image of the cemetery, from which someone had shot at the base earlier in the day.
In the fading light, he examined a car full of nervous Pashtuns as it drove past. “Taliban?” I asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. Later, two men and a boy walked by harmlessly, and he tapped me on the shoulder. “Those are Taliban. See them?” They wore black-and-white turbans, and may well have been Taliban. Or they could have been just farmers. “Is the boy a Talib?” I asked. “Future Talib,” he said, and raised the binoculars to his eyes. ♦
To get more of The New Yorker's signatur

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/...kzD59nX5In the winter of 1988-89, I spent a month in a mujahideen camp in the Argandhab Valley, a few miles north of Kandahar. The Soviets had begun to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, but MIG warplanes were still carrying out daily bombing and strafing runs, and in the slummy southern suburbs of Kandahar there was a front line where both sides were dug in. The commander of the camp, Mullah Naquibullah, known as Naquib, was a tall, beefy fellow, the chief of Kandahar’s second-largest tribe, the Alokozai. He had installed about thirty of his fighters on the outskirts of his home village of Charqulba. The village itself was mostly destroyed and abandoned; nearly all the inhabitants had fled to refugee camps in Pakistan. The only civilians in the area were a few Kutchi nomad families who wandered around with their camels and herds of goats. The desert was pocked from years of Soviet bombardment, and unexploded rockets stuck out of the earth at odd angles here and there, like children’s arrows. Naquib’s camp consisted of half a dozen flat-roofed mud huts and a prayer ground in the midst of vineyards. The day before I arrived, a bomb had landed nearby, leaving a huge crater in which a beautiful black stallion lay dead, its hooves in the air.
The war, such as it was, was fairly abstract by then. You could see bombs exploding in the distance most days, but there was no real threat of ground attacks from the besieged government garrison, and Mullah Naquib pretty much had the run of the Argandhab Valley. His mujahideen prayed diligently five times a day, and, given their devotion and their abstinent way of life, I began to think of them as warrior monks.
One day Naquib sent me off to observe a court session led by two elderly Islamic scholars who were charged with imposing Sharia, religious law, in the region. I was driven at breakneck speed along a bombed-out road by a young man who played tapes of wailing Kandahari love songs at high volume on the cassette deck of a Toyota pickup truck. The court was set up out-of-doors, in the shade of a raisin-storage silo. The judges leaned on pillows propped up against the silo walls and told me how they followed the Koran in reaching verdicts about territorial rights, adultery, theft, and so forth. After some bickering over numbers, they agreed that they had put eighteen murderers to death. Their discourse on justice went on for some time, and then the younger of the two produced a piece of paper and announced that a new edict was being sent to all the mujahideen commanders in the region. Crime had increased, and this was due, they believed, to the playing of recorded music, which was banned from now on.
The ban obviously came as a shock to the mujahideen who had accompanied me. They looked embarrassed but didn’t say much, and we left as soon as the court broke for lunch. Driving back to Naquib’s camp, the young driver pointedly inserted a tape into the cassette deck and turned the volume up even louder than it had been before. I learned later that Naquib told his men that he was not going to make a big issue of the new edict. He said that they could continue to play music, but only when they were in camp, and that they should keep it low. Meanwhile, he told the judges that he would comply with their order. Naquib’s pragmatic way of dealing with the situation seemed to me admirable.
I thought of that rustic court recently when I visited Mullah Naquib in Kandahar, where he has been living on and off since 1992, when the Communist-backed Afghan regime was finally defeated. Naquib is a controversial figure in Kandahar because of his relationship with the Taliban. When Burhanuddin Rabbani was President of Afghanistan, Naquib was made the supreme military commander of Kandahar, but in 1994 he turned the city over to the Taliban. Many people believe that he was also involved in the recent, unexplained disappearance of the Taliban from Kandahar, and they blame him especially for the escape of Mullah Omar.
Naquib didn’t remember me at first, but when he did he seemed pleased, and he began introducing me as a friend from the old days of the jihad against the Soviets. Naquib has aged badly; although he is only forty-seven, he looks much older. He wears glasses now, and his long black beard is streaked with gray. He has a bad cough. We reminisced for a while, and he offered to take me back to the Argandhab Valley to revisit the mujahideen camp where we had met more than a decade earlier. The next day, followed by a dozen or so bodyguards, he led me to the carport in his living compound, where two late-model S.U.V.s were parked. We got into a pearl-colored VX Limited Edition Toyota Land Cruiser, and several small boys, the youngest of Naquib’s eleven children, climbed into the back. The Toyota had a sunroof and a luxurious tan leather interior, and a CD player with an LCD display. It was a fine car, I said to Naquib. He chuckled. “It was Mullah Omar’s,” he said. “I have ten of his cars.”
We took off, and I asked Naquib how he had come to own Mullah Omar’s cars. “They were just parked, so I took them,” he replied, somewhat glibly. We came to a gate on the security perimeter of Mullah Omar’s property, which turned out to be more or less next door. The sentries at the gate saluted Naquib. Mullah Omar apparently owned a hundred acres or so on the edge of town, with about ten acres given over to a compound of living quarters and guesthouses that were surrounded by a maze of walls. We drove down a dirt road that runs through Omar’s property, and soon came to the paved road to the Argandhab Valley, a rural fastness where dusty tracks lead off in all directions into the desert and the mountain ranges beyond. Omar’s house was well placed for a getaway.
I asked Naquib if he had met Mullah Omar. “Lots of times,” he said. He described him as “a very quiet man who never spoke to people.”
As we drove through a pass between the mountains just behind Omar’s land, Naquib turned on the CD player, and the Toyota was filled with Afghan music. I asked if the CD was his or had come with the car.
”It was here when I got it,” Naquib said, opening the CD storage container on the armrest between the front seats. We looked for secular music among the disks of keening prayers, and fiddled with the sound system for a while.
”Are you telling me,” I said, when we had made a selection, “that this stuff belonged to the man who put people in prison for listening to music?” Naquib shrugged. “It seems so.” The song that was playing, he said, was a popular Afghan tune that vilified General Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek warlord from Mazar-i-Sharif. Its chief refrain was “O murderer of the Afghan people.”
”What is life without music?” Mullah Naquib said.
Many vestiges of the Taliban era remain untouched in the beat-up, dusty center of Kandahar, where the ruins of buildings that collapsed during the recent American bombing campaign lie among the ruins of older battles. Venders with carts sell “Super Osama bin Laden Kulfa Balls”—coconut candy manufactured in Pakistan and packaged in pink-and-purple boxes covered with images of bin Laden surrounded by tanks, cruise missiles, and jet fighters. The chaotic streets are full of men who look like Taliban, with white or black turbans and big, bushy beards. They roar around in Toyota pickups adorned with flags with green, black, and red stripes—the old royalist flag of Afghanistan, which has been revived by the followers of Hamid Karzai, the new interim Prime Minister—and there is no way, really, to know their past affiliations. In Kandahar, as in most other parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban didn’t surrender so much as melt away. The leaders vanished, but most rank-and-file members simply returned to their homes. Karzai promised not to persecute former Taliban who stopped fighting, and he has kept his word. Kandahar is officially Taliban-free, but it has an unreconciled atmosphere. The past has not quite been overcome, and the future is unresolved.
The mausoleum that adjoins the Ahmed Shah mosque, which is across the street from the governor’s palace, has a special subterranean chamber that kafirs, or unbelievers, cannot enter. It houses the cloak that is believed to have belonged to the Prophet Muhammad. On April 4, 1996, when Mullah Omar was declared the Keeper of the Faithful, he took the cloak out of the chamber and, in a dramatic display of hubris, donned it before a crowd of spectators. It was one of the few times that Omar appeared in public. I met only one person in Kandahar, besides Mullah Naquib, who had ever seen him. This was a young man named Popal, who worked at the governor’s palace. Popal kept me company one evening as I waited for an interview with Gul Agha Shirzai, who was appointed governor of Kandahar in mid-December. Popal brought me tea, and we sat together on the floor of a large office. He apologized for the lack of chairs, and explained that the Taliban had taken virtually everything when they left—even the carpets. The cheap imitation Persian we were sitting on, he said, had been bought in the bazaar. “And those”—he pointed to some computer monitors, keyboards, and printers—”we got from some of the Arabs’ houses.” He was referring to members of Al Qaeda, several hundred of whom had lived in Kandahar. I noticed that none of the computers had towers. “The Americans who have a base here, just behind the palace,” Popal said, “are checking the hard drives for information, and when they are done they will give them to us.”
The city was crawling with Americans, mostly marines, who drove around in heavily armed convoys of sand-colored Humvees, their guns pointed and their faces masked by black balaclavas. There were also small groups of weather-beaten Special Forces commandos, who wore Afghan clothes and drove Toyota four-wheel-drive pickups. From a distance, they were hard to distinguish from the many mujahideen fighters in town. They kept to themselves.
Popal had worked at the palace under the Taliban, too. It was hard to find a job in Kandahar. His long-term goal, he said, was to improve his English, so that he could become an English-Pashto translator, and also to learn computer programming. These were both things that had been nearly impossible to do under the Taliban. “The Taliban wanted us to learn Arabic. They let us work with computers, but we could not use CDs or any programs that showed human images.” He said that once, a few years back, he had been stopped by the Taliban’s religious police, who said that his beard was too short. They had taken him to a building and told him that his head was going to be shaved as punishment. “The building had no running water, but there was a drainage ditch outside, full of sewage, and they made me wet my hair from it and they used a razor to shave my head. It was very dirty water.”
Popal said that many Taliban officials had fled to the nearby Pakistani city of Quetta, and a few days earlier several of them, including the Taliban minister of justice, had dispatched representatives to Kandahar to meet with the new governor. “You see, the Pakistani authorities are now bothering them, saying they must leave Pakistan. So they sent their people to meet with Mr. Gul Agha Shirzai and they told him where they had hidden weapons and vehicles in Kandahar. And they asked Mr. Gul Agha Shirzai to ask the Pakistani authorities, on their behalf, to allow them to stay there. He has sent those letters today, I believe.” This was a couple of weeks before the Taliban minister of justice and other Taliban officials turned up in Kandahar and were sent home by Gul Agha, much to the dismay of the Americans.
Popal had met Mullah Omar at the governor’s palace. “I remember he arrived in a Toyota Corolla that belonged to someone else,” Popal said. “A normal car. He came here because the father of one of the officials was ill and he wanted to wish him well. He was very quiet, gentle. He seemed to me like a good man, not like those other Taliban who shaved my head with the drainage water.”
The austerity of the Taliban was particularly anomalous in the Pashtun homelands of eastern and southern Afghanistan, of which Kandahar is the principal city. Mosques, for instance, are more architecturally ornate in the Pashtun region than they are in the north. The streets are filled with motorized rickshaws covered with fanciful bronze embossing and shiny decals. Trucks are decorated with painted tin panels and wooden bulwarks like the prows of old-fashioned schooners. Metal gewgaws dangling from their fenders tinkle as the trucks lumber along.
Pashtun men, Kandaharis in particular, are very conscious of their personal appearance. Many of them line their eyes with black kohl and color their toenails, and sometimes their fingernails, with henna. Some also dye their hair. It is quite common to see otherwise sober-seeming older men with long beards that are a flaming, almost punk-like orange color. Burly, bearded men who carry weapons also wear chaplis, colorful high-heeled sandals. I noticed that to be really chic in Kandahar you wear your chaplis a size or so too small, which means that you mince and wobble as you walk.
Afghans from other regions joke about the high incidence of pederasty among Kandahari men. They say that when crows fly over Kandahar they clamp one wing over their bottoms, just in case. One of the first things the Taliban did—a popular move—was to punish mujahideen commanders who were accused of rape or pederasty. Homosexuals who were sentenced to death faced a particularly grisly end. Tanks or bulldozers crushed them and buried them under mud walls. Pederasty was evidently a continuing source of concern to Mullah Omar, who decreed that Taliban commanders couldn’t have beardless boys in their ranks.
In downtown Kandahar, directly across from a row of small bakeries and the run-down Noor Jehan hotel, Kandahar’s finest, there are several hole-in-the-wall photo shops. After the exodus of the Taliban from the city in early December, the proprietors hung portraits of their clients in the windows, along with photographs of famous people like Bruce Lee, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ahmed Shah Massoud, and King Zahir Shah. There are many portraits of Taliban fighters posing in front of curtains or painted backdrops. They hold guns and bouquets of plastic flowers. Some are alone, others are with a friend. Some sit rigidly side by side and a few have their arms draped over one another, and some even clasp their hands together affectionately.
Said Kamal, the proprietor of the Photo Shah Zada shop, did a brisk business in Taliban portraits. He specializes in retouched photos. Kamal’s artful brushwork removes blemishes and adds color. The backdrops of his portraits are vivid greens or blues with halos of red and orange, and clothing has been transformed from the drab to the garish. Many of the Taliban sat for their portraits with heavily kohled eyes, which made them look like silent-movie stars.
Taliban portraits lie under the glass of Said Kamal’s front counter and hang on the wall in tin frames. He said that they belong to Taliban who fled the city, and he doesn’t expect them to be picked up. I found this confusing, since Mullah Omar had enforced the Koranic prohibition on representations of the human image, but Said Kamal explained that after the ban on images was announced, and the Taliban forced the photo shops to shut down, they realized that even they needed passport pictures. There was no way around it, if they wanted to travel. So an exception was made to Mullah Omar’s edict. Officially, Said Kamal made passport photographs, and he formally complied with the rules, displaying no pictures of human beings in his shopwindow. But the rules were never fully obeyed by everyone. Said Kamal continued to make portraits of the Taliban, just as he continued to take clandestine wedding pictures at the request of ordinary Kandaharis.
I visited Mullah Omar’s compound by myself one day after Mullah Naquib had pointed it out. It had been heavily bombed and strafed and rocketed, and untidy piles of bricks and masonry lay everywhere, but the section in which Mullah Omar lived with his wives and children was mostly still intact, thanks to twelve-foot-thick bombproof roofs. Construction materials for future additions and improvements lay alongside the debris. Mullah Omar had had plans. He wanted to make the desert bloom. Scores of young shade saplings were planted along the driveways, and there were several flower gardens inside the compound. At one of the guesthouses, a tanker truck pumped water onto a bed of geraniums. The words “Donated by UNICEF to Kandahar Water Supply Department” were written on the side of the truck. The men holding the hose told me that they had been coming to water Omar’s gardens for some time.
A pickup truck came by. Several RPG anti-tank rockets stood upright on either side of the cab, and an armed American wearing a black turban was sitting in the back. A U.S. soldier who appeared to be in his late thirties told me that the part of the compound in front of me was off limits but that I could walk around the part where Mullah Omar’s living quarters were. “You can’t miss it,” he said. “It’s the place that looks like Motel 6.”
In front of Omar’s house there is a small concrete mosque with several minarets, domed cupolas, and pillars with huge flowers painted on them. A sculpture of a fallen tree and boulders, painted black and green, serves as a kind of traffic island between the mosque and the house. Two or three faux date palms jut up around the sculpture, which seems to serve also as a fountain, although it was dry on the day I visited. The outer walls of the house are covered with murals depicting lakes and ornamental gardens and more flowers. Omar lived with his favorite wife in a private apartment on one side of the house, painted, for the most part, pink and green. The floor is covered with plastic terrazzo tiles. The bedroom, which is small and dank, has a ceiling fan, a double bed, and two white-and-faux-gilt mini-chandeliers. Several mujahideen were resting on Omar’s bed when I poked my head in; they got up quickly and adjusted their turbans. On the other side of the house, I was told, three more wives had lived with their several children. These rooms were much plainer, and there was only one, rather crude flower painted on a wall of the common hallway.
Down the road, at Mullah Naquib’s house, one of his bodyguards, a sun-darkened and rough-hewn man in black, showed me Naquib’s flower garden in an inner courtyard. There were clumps of carefully tended roses, daffodils, and dahlias, and I complimented him on their beauty. The bodyguard smiled. “This is what we’ve grown with hardly any water, but you should see it when we have rain.”
The day Naquib drove me to the Argandhab Valley to visit the old mujahideen camp, I recognized landmarks such as the tomb of Baba Wali—a holy man whose shrine is on top of a hill that during the jihad was part of Naquib’s domain—but there were many more trees than I remembered, and cultivated fields, and more people, too. Naquib said that most of the people who had fled to Pakistan during the war had returned. Now it was drought, not war, that was the problem. We drove along dirt tracks between vineyards, and then walked across fields to where the camp had been. “We’ve plowed it all under to grow grapes,” Naquib said. The only house left standing was the one where he had slept. In the intervening years, he had bought more land. He had inherited only ten jeribs from his father, but now he owned two hundred and fifty, about a hundred and twenty-five acres. He was growing wheat, grapes, almonds, and pomegranates.
Naquib’s grandfather, and his father, too, had been the head of the Alokozai tribe, but during Zahir Shah’s reign a malek, a government administrator, was appointed. Then, after the anti-Soviet jihad began, things reverted to the way they had been. Naquib said that a man named Azizullah Wasfi, who had moved to the United States, is the official tribal elder, but that in his absence Naquib was put in charge.
I asked Naquib to whom the tribal authority would pass when Azizullah Wasfi died. “Well, when the tribe appoints a leader, it chooses someone who can serve them,” he said. “I am not so interested in doing this, because of health problems, but I will help if I am asked.” Naquib said that his duties were “resolving disputes and grievances.” For example, he said, “when Mullah Omar decided to leave Kandahar, he came to me as leader of the Alokozai.” Almost as an afterthought, Naquib added, “The tribal chief also can call up the men for war.” There were Alokozai all over the place, not only in Argandhab but in the neighboring provinces of Oruzgan, Helmand, and even, he said, as far away as Herat.
For a couple of hours, we walked from one sharecropper’s home to another. Invariably, the peasants kissed Naquib’s hand deferentially. He inspected irrigation systems and asked questions and gave orders. Then we drove to his house, near the village of Charqulba, and sat on large mats and cushions that his men fetched for us. His bodyguards fanned out vigilantly, and we talked about what had happened to him after I left Afghanistan. He was the military commander in Kandahar during the Rabbani regime in the early nineties, “but then the civil war started, and during the chaos the Taliban appeared. When the Taliban movement started, Hamid Karzai came to see me and told me not to fight against them. And Rabbani also called me and told me not to fight. At the time, we all thought the Talib were fighting for the King”—for the restoration of Zahir Shah to the throne—”and they told me, ‘You should surrender the garrison and your guns.’ Rabbani wasn’t sending money or ammunition to me. How could anyone fight against the Taliban under those conditions?”
After he handed over Kandahar, Naquib said, the Taliban ordered him to go back to Charqulba to live. “I stayed here for a few years, and then I was wounded in an assassination attempt, and went to Islamabad for treatment.” Naquib pulled up a sleeve and a trouser leg to show me his scars. He’d been hit by a bullet in his left leg and another in his left elbow, and he pointed to his chest, where, he said, he’d received a rocket fragment. The six men travelling with him had been killed; he was the only survivor. The attackers had been apprehended, he told me. “They claimed that it had been a case of mistaken identity. They said they thought I was a Taliban official.” Naquib shrugged, and continued with his story: “I stayed in Islamabad for about two years, and Hamid Karzai and I met with some American officials there. The Americans wanted to know about Al Qaeda, so that they could act against it. We also met with the Italian ambassador. They all told us they would not let Pakistan interfere anymore in our country. And afterward, when I returned home to Kandahar, Hamid Karzai stayed in touch with me.”
Naquib lived in Kandahar for about two years after his return from Pakistan, he said. “But then when September 11th happened, and the Americans started bombing, I came to this house in the village, and I was in touch with Hamid Karzai. He gave me a satellite phone.” In early December, Naquib said, when Karzai was chosen as Afghanistan’s interim leader, “Mullah Omar and the Taliban agreed to leave, and Karzai agreed that the Taliban would transfer power in Kandahar to me. But by the morning after the night the BBC announced the transfer, the Taliban had all left. Gul Agha entered the city, and Karzai appointed him governor and myself corps commander. I have some health problems, so I refused the job, and gave it to my deputy, Khan Muhammad.”
The competition between Mullah Naquib and Gul Agha had been intense, and many people had expected fighting to break out between them in the days after the Taliban left the city, but Naquib insisted that he had no bad feelings toward Gul Agha, and I didn’t press him, because he seemed to like his version of events and wasn’t about to change it. He was more candid about his health problems, which were “mental.” He had been to two hospitals in Germany for treatment. “I was crazy,” he said, and laughed, and all the men who were gathered around now, listening to us, laughed, too, evidently at the memory of his behavior. “I was not myself. I would get tense and have headaches. The doctors told me that I had a heavy workload and it had damaged some of my brain cells.” Naquib’s symptoms had appeared after the Taliban took over Kandahar, but he said that the problems might have been caused by the explosion of a Russian mortar shell near him during the jihad. “A piece of the shell hit me here,” he said, pointing to his forehead. “It was just a small piece, but maybe it had something to do with it.” He pulled out a strip of capsules. He had been given a prescription for Risperdal, an antipsychotic. “Each pill costs three hundred rupees,” he said, or about four and a half dollars.
Early one morning, a gunfight broke out in a residential neighborhood in Kandahar, not far from my hotel. At first, people said that it was a confrontation between Mullah Naquib and Gul Agha, but it turned out that one of Gul Agha’s commanders, who claimed that he hadn’t been paid his salary, had led his soldiers on a robbery expedition, and the local police chief had foiled it. Things had been resolved by sunset, when I stopped by the governor’s palace. The commander had barricaded himself in a police station and threatened to blow himself up with grenades, but he had finally surrendered. He and his men had been beaten and put in jail, a guard at the palace told me.
Gul Agha was receiving visitors in a long room that had a red carpet and chandeliers. A framed portrait of King Zahir Shah was propped on a desk at one end of the room. Four or five uniformed soldiers carrying rifles stood around, and a couple of dozen venerable-looking petitioners sat attentively on red sofas awaiting their turn to speak with the Governor.
Gul Agha is a squat, bushy-haired man with a big belly and a rubbery face. He wore a brown shalwar kameez and sandals, and I noticed that his toenails were long and untidy. He was sitting in a chair next to the door, talking to a group of Noorzai tribal elders from the western province of Farah, an eight-hour drive from Kandahar. They had come to see him because they were having problems with mujahideen who had recently arrived from Iran. Gul Agha smoked a Benson & Hedges Special Filter cigarette and listened to the elders, and when they had finished he told them that he was aware of what he termed, darkly, “the Iranian interference” in their province, and that President Karzai was also aware of it. The problem would be dealt with soon. Gul Agha lisps clumsily, as if his tongue were too big for his mouth. “Before now,” he said loudly, “there were commanders with autonomous power. But now I am the over-all commander of the whole area.”
While Gul Agha was speaking, a soldier passed out cold cans of Pepsi-Cola to some of the guests. I took one and sipped it and then placed the can on the floor next to my feet, but almost immediately someone stuck his hand under my chair and grabbed it. I turned around and saw a soldier sitting on the carpet behind me, holding the Pepsi and snickering to a friend. I reached over and swiped it back.
When it was my turn to speak with the Governor, I asked him to describe his role in recent events. He had been governor of Kandahar during Rabbani’s tenure, although Mullah Naquib, as military commander, had more power than he did then. When the Taliban took over Kandahar in 1994, Gul Agha moved to Quetta, across the border in Pakistan. “I went into business,” he said, “trading goods between Pakistan, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries. When the Taliban and Al Qaeda became strong in Afghanistan, I wrote three separate letters to Mullah Omar, advising him not to do what he was doing, because he’d bring disaster upon Afghanistan. When he didn’t listen to us, we began to fight against him, just as we fought against the Russians. The Afghan people have a long history, more than five thousand years old, and they have never accepted foreign invaders and have always fought to resist them. We have told the U.N. and U.S. troops at the airport that they are here to stop the foreign interference.”
Gul Agha then complained at length about how some foreign powers, namely Iran and Russia, were still meddling in Afghanistan by backing fundamentalist warlords, including former President Rabbani. “These men all have the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Gul Agha said. They were trying to sabotage the interim government of Hamid Karzai by disseminating propaganda, sending their gunmen to his territory, and generally stirring up trouble. “We want an end to foreign interference in Afghanistan,” he repeated. “We want peace in Afghanistan and we ask Allah to help us have honest government. We want rights for women, and we are against drugs and terrorism. My greatest hope and wish is that there will be a broad-based government in Afghanistan without friction between different groups.”
The Governor sat back in his chair, apparently satisfied with his oration.
Since he had brought up the subject of friction, I said, what was his current relationship with Mullah Naquib? “Mullah Naquib himself agreed to leave the government,” Gul Agha replied, “and he has no duties now.” He said that he had told Hamid Karzai that he did not want to work with Naquib. “It was he who brought the Taliban and Al Qaeda to Kandahar,” Gul Agha said, and he had helped the Taliban leaders escape. “The world is not happy with him, and the Americans are not happy with him. So maybe he will be brought to justice.”
Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the President’s younger brothers, lives in Kandahar, in a heavily guarded house a few miles from the governor’s palace. He speaks fluent American-accented English. “I spent ten years in Chicago,” he explained. “I opened the first Afghan restaurant there.” His Chicago restaurant was one of a family-owned chain of Afghan restaurants in the United States, all of them called the Helmand, after Afghanistan’s longest river.
”We’re trying to get things functioning here again,” Karzai said. “Our main concern is security. We want to get the gunmen off the streets, and we’ve asked the commanders to have no more than one or two bodyguards.” Karzai was reasonably sanguine about the town rivals, Mullah Naquib and Gul Agha. It was just a matter of keeping a lid on things until international peacekeeping forces took over and an Afghan national army was in place.
Karzai was less circumspect about Naquib’s relationship with the Taliban. “In the early days, we did kind of help the Taliban,” he said. “But you have to understand that in the beginning they were mostly commanders who had fought against the Russians. There weren’t any Arabs and only a few Pakistanis.” The Karzais began campaigning against the Taliban a little over three years ago. “In July, 1998, my brother and I talked to Mullah Naquib and asked him to go to Bonn”—for a meeting of Afghan opposition leaders—”and even gave him a ticket and a passport, but he didn’t go,” Karzai said. “He didn’t want to leave his land, and he said that if he were to go to Bonn he would not be safe in Kandahar afterward. And I think this was the truth. But the fact is Naquib never took any action against the Taliban.”
In November, when Gul Agha was approaching Kandahar from the south and Hamid Karzai was north of the city, Mullah Naquib was given the satellite phone to help him get involved. “But he said he was under too much surveillance,” Ahmed Wali Karzai recalled. “All he did in the end was arrange for the talks between the Taliban and my brother. Mullah Naquib called me in Quetta to say that Mullah Omar was ready to talk.” Karzai said that it was the Taliban’s idea to hand the city over to Naquib. “But it didn’t happen the way it had been agreed. We expected them to stay in the city, although we never expected Mullah Omar to remain.”
Karzai said that the assassination attempt that almost killed Naquib in 1998 had been ordered by the Taliban security chief. They had done an investigation and had evidence to prove it. An influential businessman in Kandahar told me the same thing and claimed that the Taliban flew Naquib to Pakistan for medical treatment in one of their own helicopters to cover up their complicity in the attempted murder. Why, I asked the businessman, would the Taliban have wanted to kill Naquib? “Because Naquib was the only powerful figure remaining in Kandahar from the time before the Taliban came,” he said. “In Argandhab, the people consider him their tribal leader. He represented a potential threat to the Taliban.”
The Taliban may have had reservations about Mullah Naquib, but in December, when they realized they had to leave the city, they turned to him to make the arrangements. A man named Khairullah, an intellectual in his sixties who is a distinguished elder in one of the city’s tribal councils, told me that the Taliban had bequeathed Naquib many of their weapons when they left. Naquib had complained to me that Rabbani had withheld weapons from him, yet he seemed to have them now, and was vague about where they came from, just as he was vague about the acquisition of the ten Toyota Land Cruisers. Khairullah also said that, as far as he knew, Naquib didn’t have any serious health problems, mental or otherwise—certainly nothing incapacitating.
One afternoon, a man waiting outside Gul Agha’s palace approached my translator, Qias, and said he had an Al Qaeda prisoner to sell. He was holding him in his house and would hand him over for two thousand dollars. Qias came back to our hotel to give me the news. He was excited. “What do you think?” he said. “What should I tell him? Will you pay the two thousand dollars?” I reminded Qias that I was not a Green Beret or a C.I.A. agent. Where would I keep an Al Qaeda prisoner? But I was curious, so I told Qias to tell the man to come see me. He showed up a couple of hours later, and Qias went downstairs to talk to him. It turned out that the man’s story had been a lie, bait to see if we were interested. He didn’t actually have a prisoner in his house. He had come from a village in eastern Afghanistan about a day’s drive away, where, he claimed, there were a hundred or so Al Qaeda members hiding in a nearby cave. The villagers sympathized with them and took turns taking them food and other supplies. He had delivered food to the cave himself a few days earlier. But he was willing to betray the men for two thousand dollars. He would guide us to the exact spot, so we could capture them, he said.
Qias invited the man up to my room, but when Qias said that I was a journalist the deal was off. The man didn’t want to talk to a journalist. He wanted to do business. In that case, Qias said, the best thing for him to do was to go out to the Kandahar airport and approach the Americans stationed there, who ran a detention camp for Al Qaeda members. The man thanked Qias and left.
I had been offered purloined Al Qaeda documents in Kabul and Jalalabad, and it didn’t seem odd that an enterprising man from a village in eastern Afghanistan had raised the level of entrepreneurship. He must have assumed that if the Americans would pay twenty-five million dollars for Osama bin Laden they would pay a fair price for lesser souls.
Afghanistan was teeming with opportunists. It was not the country I had visited more than a decade earlier, when Mullah Naquib and his men were fighting a rather simple war over ideas of faith and nationhood. Or perhaps it just seemed simple then. Perhaps the jockeying for power, the hypocrisy and naked ambition and mendacity had just not had a chance to flower.
I asked Qias what it would take for me to set myself up as a warlord in Afghanistan. “It would be easy,” he said. “You hire a hundred gunmen for a month, get a few Toyota pickups, and you’re in business.” He estimated that it would cost about ten thousand dollars. Gunmen came cheap, and most of them had their own Kalashnikovs already. In any case, Kalashnikovs were cheap, too. We might, he suggested, spend a bit more to add some muscle. We could buy a few RPG rocket launchers and a heavy PK machine gun or two, for instance.
O.K., I said. But once I have this army, what do I do? It is cheap enough to get going, but how do you sustain it?
This was also easy, Qias said. “In the first month, you find ways to make money so that it doesn’t cost you anything more.” You went to wealthy local people, merchants and traders, and asked them for money, and they paid.
Qias seemed to be talking about setting up a protection racket. Extortion was only the beginning, of course, he explained. Most of th
i'll bow to your personal knowledge.

though for what ever reason men throw acid in young womens faces, it's wrong. the fact foreign soldiers are over there isn't reason enough to hate ones own people enough to do an act like that.

that the other males in the country allow it, that the whole country allows it to happen disgusts me.
absolutely ,Bill,that's the whole thing,it's not ones own people,it's tons of different tribes who only pay allegiance to their own members,the rest are others
and if you then interfere,bringing other elements into the equation,some tribes will side with the new powers and take advantage of the situation,leave them alone and let them figure out a way to coexist next to each other
(06-14-2010, 11:09 AM)srijantje Wrote: [ -> ]absolutely ,Bill,that's the whole thing,it's not ones own people,it's tons of different tribes who only pay allegiance to their own members,the rest are others
see, i'm all for bringing the troops out, but i really think we shouldn't just leave a vacuum.

what i do find a little repulsive is the fact we do nothing in somalia (darfur) no real help as such. and yet spend so much hunting down a few men.

i really do feel the afghans need some kind of help though if we do pull out. the gove (is is karzhi ? ) needs to sort out some kind of relationship with the west to assure them that the country is fighting terrorism in it's own way. it must be like pakistan was for the longest time.
i'm actually wondering what the west's motives are in afghanistan,the only point of reference i got is that Hamid Karzai,the current by the west promoted president,worked in the oil industry before

Unocal connection

There's been much debate over Karzai's alleged consultant work with Unocal (Union Oil Company of California since acquired by Chevron in 2005). In 2002, when Karzai became the subject of heavy media coverage as one of the front runners to lead Afghanistan, it was reported that he was a former consultant for them.[78][79][80] Spokesmen for both Unocal and Karzai have denied any such relationship, although Unocal could not speak for all companies involved in the consortium.[81] The original claim that Karzai worked for Unocal originates from a 6 December 2001 issue of the French newspaper Le Monde,[81] Barry Lane UNOCAL's manager for public relations states that, "He was never a consultant, never an employee. We've exhaustively searched through all our records."[82][83] Lane however did say that Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was a Unocal consultant in the mid-1990s.[84]
i genuinely believe that they (the west ) believe if they control afghanistan, they control the in and outflux of terrorists that pass through it's borders via iran and pakistan and vice versa. they (the west) wish to stop it being the mixing bowl of the terrorist world.
here is an article a friend of mine sent me about a minute ago,totally coincidentical i might add.

You remember I had been speculating about why the US has been committing so many resources and lives to Afghanistan, and I suggested that it was because of an oil/gas pipeline, which perhaps is one reason. But here’s a more compelling one. The article raises lots of questions, first, about when this information was known to Washington; second, about its coming so close on the heels of McChrystal’s (sp?) gloomy prognosis regarding the upcoming battle for Kandahar, which I took as an admission of defeat in Afghanistan and a prelude to a pullout of US forces (and notice that McChrystal’s name is not mentioned in this article). But with this announcement, which I guess is a rallying cry for support for the war, at least from big biz, I don’t see the commitment slackening or the war ending any time soon. And you can bet that the “development” and the big money that all these minerals will generate will not help the Afghan people (except for a small, well-connected Westernized minority) one bit, and will devastate the environment as well.

Bom! M

NY Times - June 13, 2010
U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan


WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.

“The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.”

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.

The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

“On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”
outside countries may profit but if true Afghanistan will become rich.
i think the real worry is who withing afghanistan will reap the profits.
i can't see the taliban letting any mining go ahead without them getting their cut Sad
read the other article then you might get a better insight what is actually going on,the mullah omar bit and the music is pretty eye opening
(06-14-2010, 04:50 PM)srijantje Wrote: [ -> ]read the other article then you might get a better insight what is actually going on,the mullah omar bit and the music is pretty eye opening
i just did.
for me this was the most poignant line of the whole post.
“Afghanistan’s broken,” he said.

it was a great piece of writing, thanks sj.
(06-14-2010, 04:54 PM)velvetfog Wrote: [ -> ]One of the big problems with the mineral wealth that they have recently discovered, is that much of it is in the border region against the Pakistani border where the Taliban is strongest. Any mining installations in that region would have to be heavily defended in order to be able to operate.
by whom?Blackwater?to guard the western mining companies?Like the niger delta?
i'll guarantee everybody one thing,you try to rip off anybody in that region you gonna get huge problems
against the pak.border?that's pushtun country on both sides,happens to be Karzai's tribe.
the western companies that pay a price decided by the country who owns the oil and mineral rights.
translated that means,
the company that bribes the right people gets to mine,
remember the last afghan elections,i didn't hear too many complaints coming out of nato
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