Archive for the 'war on terror' Category

An Adventure With Death: How I Survived NATO Firing

I and my father, along with two other passengers, are driving through the streets of Kandahar, a “troubled” province in the South, on our way to Kabul. Suddenly, in its usual and unpredictable manner, pops a convoy of NATO armored personnel carriers (APCs).

A guy sitting on top of the first APC is signaling all cars to move right and clear the way. The two cars in front of us follow his orders. Now it’s our car which the person is signaling to move right. Our driver, who has had a quarrel with another driver some 20 minutes ago, is too deep in thoughts to notice his signals. I see every gesticulation from the NATO soldier and am expecting the driver to turn at any moment.

We get closer and closer to the convoy and the driver doesn’t show any sign of clearing the road. The NATO soldier grows increasingly desperate. His desperation reaches to a point where he fires four “warning” shots in an attempt to get the attention of our driver. I am watching all this; and at this point, everything seems like a Hollywood movie or perhaps a CNN video from a troubled zone. I feel no urgency to act and inform the driver to change course; perhaps because I can’t believe this is happening to me.

Bullets race overhead—shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot—that’s four of them whooshing in quick succession. And now, even after the warning shots, we have still not cleared the road for the APC. The NATO soldier at the top of the APC can’t take it anymore. He thinks that we are perhaps a gang of Al-Qaeda or Taliban suicide car bombers about to strike his vehicle. Instincts take over him and he lowers his gun barrel in a bid to take offense and exterminate the perceived threat. Maybe, in the meantime, he was thinking of the honor to have shot and foiled a terrorist plot in preemption.

So, as he brings his gun barrel down to shoot the driver first, our driver notices it and takes a desperate swerve to the right. The NATO soldier shoots his first bullet. Thanks to the turn we take, the bullet hits the side screen window and somehow misses all of us. Glass scatters everywhere. We’re all sitting there aghast, looking at the unfolding drama in disbelief. A second bullet comes in quick succession to the first one. Again, miraculously, it rips through the thin strip of plastic that holds the rearview mirror onto the car.

Because we have taken a turn and cleared the way, the NATO soldier realizes that we are no suicide car bombers and stops firing. At this point, we all start checking our limbs and bodies to make sure everything is intact. All seems okay. We have been able to escape death in the hands of NATO soldiers.

Moments later, I begin to think: Escaping Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other threats lurking around, we come under threat by the very force which claims to be “protecting” us. Although I acknowledge there’s an idiocy factor involved from our driver, I can’t help but wonder how many people have lost their lives in such incidents that have been labeled “encounters with terrorists.”

From my observations it appears as if such incidents are quite common. In the three trips that I have made to Afghanistan in the last two years, I have had two encounters of this nature with international troops, the first one being a lot less dramatic. It now seems to me that the international peacekeeping forces are quite at ease in opening fire at almost anyone.

14 Pregnant Women Die as US Soldiers Seige Their Town

JALALABAD, Sep 24 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Thousands of residents of the Korengal Valley in the eastern Kunar province are facing acute shortages of food and medicines due to US forces’ alleged blockade of roads leading to the valley.

Speaking at a news conference here on Sunday, elders from the area complained around 60,000 residents were facing shortages of food and medicines due to the blockade for the past one month.

The five elders said the blockage had created an awful situation in the valley as people are finding it hard to get medicines and food. They said 14 women had so far been died during delivery due to non-availability of proper medicines in the health clinics. More

The American way of winning hearts and minds?

Long after 9/11, Afghanistan struggles to find way

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I’ve been thinking of writing an article about how far Afghanistan has come since the ousting of the Taliban. While doing research on the internet, I came across this Reuters article which quite adequately sums up the entire situation. My own previous writings related to this topic are linked at the end of this post.

BAMIYAN: Life is grim when you can’t pay the rent on a scorpion-infested cave, there is no job in sight and desperate people are waiting to take your spot.

As Afghanistan struggles to rebuild five years after September 11 and the fall of the Taliban, hundreds of families are trapped in a sprawling web of caves in the lush Bamiyan valley, surrounded by stark, desert mountains and famous for two giant Buddhas blown up in 2001.

“We have no work. Our lives are getting worse. We can’t get enough food,” says Mahtab, a 35-year-old mother of six perched on a narrow path carved into a cliff, nursing her year-old daughter Fatema, her hair stiff with sand.

Five years on, Bamiyan is at once a symbol of the progress that has been made and of the lack of it in Afghanistan.

Bamiyan has Afghanistan’s first and only woman governor and is trying to rebuild its tourist trade. But it remains desperately poor, dragged down by the failure of President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers to kick-start the economy while eliminating opium production.

With the Taliban at its strongest since 2001 and opium production at record levels, violence is blocking efforts at economic development.

The lack of jobs means more people are willing to grow opium poppies, bolsters warlords and forces impoverished villagers into the arms of the Taliban as paid fighters.

“We have the young generation and all of them, they are jobless, the majority of them they are jobless,” says Bamiyan’s thoughtful, soft-spoken Governor Habiba Sarabi, a doctor.

“Of course, the enemy of Afghanistan can use this very sensitive and emotional young generation. They can give money for these young people and use it as a terrorist thing.”

During their five-year rule, the Taliban barred women from going outside without a male escort and from most work. Girls were denied education. The Taliban held public executions, banned music and cinema and destroyed the ancient statues of Buddha in Bamiyan because they were deemed un-Islamic.

The Taliban have made a strong comeback this year and fighting is the worst it has been since US-led troops toppled the hard-line Islamists for giving refuge to Osama bin Laden, architect of the September 11 attacks.

More than 2000 people have been killed this year alone, mainly in the Taliban’s southern heartland.

Nato forces launched their biggest land offensive last weekend, Operation Medusa, to crush the Taliban in the south. Nato has about 16,500 troops in the country.

The Taliban’s No 2, Mullah Obaidullah, says support is growing among Afghans disillusioned with violence, corruption, the lack of reconstruction and the drugs trade.

“The Taliban had established a true peace in the country with law and order,” he said from an undisclosed location. “But now, the country has become a centre of instability, killings, plundering, obscenity and drugs.

“There is no protection for the life or property of any individual. Everybody has seen the true face of the US and its allies. Therefore, the Afghan people are supporting the Taliban.”

Amidala Tarzi, a leading academic, writer and former cabinet minister, says reconstruction so far was far from adequate.

“For the common people, I think so far very, very little has been done,” he says. “In fact, I think that the whole effort has been downgraded. It’s become more difficult for the common man.

“There is no production and there is nothing you can call investment,” he added.

Along with the lack of a real economy, he singles out the failure to provide public housing as a major problem. Many Afghans live in mud-brick huts with no running water or sewage system. Disease is rife and food is short.

By some estimates, 10 times more money has been spent on security and defence in five years than on development. Politicians and analysts say much aid money is stolen or wasted.

Although the people of Bamiyan have rallied in the streets over the lack of progress, Governor Sarabi says the news is not all bad.

Her priority is roads, to improve links with the rest of the country and bring the tourists back. Bamiyan city is a bruising 7-8 hour drive from Kabul, mostly along a dirt road still littered with sinister wrecks of tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

Sarabi faces other problems. Local warlords are fighting a political campaign to have her replaced by someone more sympathetic to them.

As the country’s first woman governor, expectations are high she will draw extra attention – and money.

“One of the biggest difficulties at the moment is people’s expectations are very high,” she says. “People think that I as the only (woman) governor will take a lot of attention from the international community but in practice it’s not like that.”

In the cliffs of Bamiyan, all the safe caves are full, with more than 20 people sometimes sleeping head-to-toe and side-by-side on threadbare carpet. Chunks of rock fall from the bare ceiling and walls and scorpions infest every crack.

It’s a dusty, filthy life with dung from donkeys, calves and goats littering the paths and lying outside the oven-like caves.

Still, there is a waiting list of people living in tents and local business people charge rent – 1000 Afghanis ($NZ31)) for Mahtab’s sleeping room and separate cooking cave.

“He told us if we don’t pay, we will have to leave here,” she says, frowning. “We don’t have anywhere else to live. We don’t have any money. We don’t know what we will do. God knows!”

Source.

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Is the Destruction of Hezbollah the Answer?

Israel has termed its invasion of Lebanon a preemptive move to safeguard its integrity and security against radical Islamic organizations like the Hezbollah. It is portraying the unfolding events in a way that the destruction of Hezbollah would be the panacea to a large part of the Middle East crisis.

However, what has to be understood is the fact that organizations like the Hezbollah do not run on mere ideologies or quests for material gains; they run on religious fervor and emotions. This means even if the rocket-and-rifle Hezbollah is gone, the fervor-and-zest Hezbollah is still there. Religious feelings and emotions never accept defeat. They reemerge, resurge and reestablish with very little financial means of subsistence. They are highly susceptible to inspiration and manipulation. They are resilient and formidable. Worst of all, they can potentially enjoy monetary, financial and technical backup from different states.

This means, even if Israel is successful in obliterating Hezbollah, the prospects for another such organization to form and foster relations with countries like Iran and Syria are healthy.

This helps us to realize that Israel ’s military campaign against Hezbollah is not the panacea for such a problem. If Israeli strategists and policymakers do not realize this, they are mere duffers. If they do and still continue their quest to pound Lebanon ’s infrastructure and people with bombs, they have grim intentions which they are hiding in the guise of an attack over Hezbollah.

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Repercussions of the Evacuation of Foreigners from Beirut

The international community is evacuating its citizens from Beirut. Evacuation procedures are due to complete in a few hours after the publication of this post. While to many this move may appear as a precautionary measure to safeguard foreigners, there is much more behind it.

Undeterred by the fact that it will do no harm to foreigners, Israel will definitely intensify its aerial attacks over Beirut and other Lebanese cities to unprecedented degrees. In this process, Israeli fighter jets are bound to do more harm to civilians and the infrastructure than to the Hezbollah militants. Experience has proven it: Of the 350-or-so people killed in the attacks so far, one-third were children and many more were civilian men and women; very few were Hezbollah militants. And those who back Israeli military action over Lebanon must know that the new round of attacks means more homes will be destroyed, more civilians will be killed and more injured people will die in hospitals due to a lack of medical facilities.

And, because Israel has bombed all roads and bridges leading to Beirut, food and medical supplies will not be able to reach the city. Power transmission lines have suffered. Water supply is affected as a result. Hospitals will go without medicine and operation theaters will have to run without power. And when hospitals don’t run, food and water don’t reach the people, power stays off and bombs weighing tons are dropped from the sky, a humanitarian crisis is bound to occur. Not to mention that it may also herald the demise of the American-installed democracy in Lebanon.

America, displaying a condemnable backing for Israel, seems to be showing no regard to its much endeared ideal, democracy. Also, it closing its eyes in order not to notice Israel’s illegal aggression in a sovereign country and the collective punishment of its civilians.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has had remarkable achievements by any standard: It has been able to kill as many as 18 Israeli soldiers and retain the two soldiers it had kidnapped earlier this month. In addition, it has kept Israeli ground troops at bay in the Northern front, showing excellent terrain-fighting skills. Hezbollah has also made the Israeli public pay for the aggression of Israeli military commanders killing 33 civilians so far.

However, the most important fact worth noticing is, that Muslims, especially Shiites, in Damascus and Tehran in particular, and the world over in general, are rejoicing over Hezbollah’s surprising display of resilience. Many of them may, if summoned by Hezbollah, join in the battle. This may turn Lebanon into another Afghanistan and shatter its fledgling democracy. Resultantly, a situation far bleaker and more disastrous than any other witnessed so far may arise in the region.

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Rumsfeld in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Afghanistan on July 13. He met with President Karzai and discussed issues relating to Afghanistan’s collaborative efforts with the international community to suppress the Taliban resurgence and the country’s efforts to curb the cultivation of opium poppy. Also, he met with US military commanders and NATO officials to discuss plans for the military handover of Afghanistan to NATO.

Rumsfeld expressed his support for Karzai and praised his leadership. He lauded Karzai and his team’s achievements on various fronts including the offensive against Taliban and the subsequent peace prevalent in Afghanistan.

This visit shattered speculations in some Afghan circles regarding America’s growing discontent with president Karzai and his inefficacy to produce desirable results. It was speculated that, because President Karzai has failed to rid his government of maladministration and corruption, stop the cultivation of opium poppy and produce greater achievements, America was thinking of forcing radical changes in Karzai’s government. These ‘radical changes’ would, in the extreme case, force Karzai to resign.

Rumsfeld stung Pakistan, an important ally in the war on terror, for not doing enough to stop the operation of terrorist training camps. He said, “There is no question but that there is some cross-border activity… and it is something that needs to be worked on, on both sides of the border.”

Pakistan has already positioned some 80,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan and some 10,000 more troops are scheduled to be stationed soon to prevent illegal cross-border activities.

He ensured Afghanistan of his country’s continuous support.

He also called on European countries to help Afghanistan in its war on drugs. Afghanistan is currently the source of 90% of the overall illegal drug production in the world.

This post was also contributed to Publius Pundit.

Israeli Retaliation against Hezbollah Kills Civilians

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — Hezbollah militants crossed into Israel on Wednesday and captured two Israeli soldiers. Israel responded in southern Lebanon with warplanes, tanks and gunboats, and said seven of its soldiers had been killed in the violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the soldiers’ capture “an act of war,” and his Cabinet prepared to approve more military action in Lebanon…

Olmert said he held the Lebanese government responsible for the two soldiers’ safety, vowing that the Israeli response “will be restrained, but very, very, very painful.”

 

Israel retaliated by bombing bridges and Hezbollah positions and killing two Lebanese civilians. Kofi Anan, the UN General Secretary, condemned Israel’s offensive in Lebanon and called for an immediate release of the kidnapped soldiers.

Meanwhile, Israeli aggression in Gaza continued killing 23 people. Among those killed are nine members of a family on whose house a bomb was dropped.

Israel is defying all international treaties by continuing to use force to gain the freedom of its captured soldiers. In addition, it is not only defying norms of democracy by imprisoning the democratically elected Hamas officials, but also committing war crimes by killing innocent civilians.

 

However, international response has been disappointing: The UN, which has sensed the manslaughter and violation of laws, has no authority to take action. The US, a traditional backer of Israel, is legitimizing the use of force against civilians. The rest of the world, including the EU, has taken no serious action in the wake of the prevalent circumstances.

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