Friday, June 04, 2004

On Wednesday, five Doctors Without Borders workers were killed in the province of Badghis. The killers rode on motorcycles and Taliban claimed responsibility later in the day. All five employees were part of the Dutch branch of Doctor Without Borders (Artsen Zonder Grenzen).

Hélène de Beir was 28 years old and was assigned to be projectcoordinator. She was from Belgium and she was to turn 30 years old on June 16th. Egil Tynaes was 62 years old and a doctor from Norway. Besmillah was an Afghan hired to be a driver and had worked with DWB since October of last year. Fasil Ahmad was a translator with the DWB team. Pim Kwint was 39 years old and had his own IT-company before he joined DWB. He took care of the logistics. He also had his own blog. This is what he wrote back on January 7th of this year (as translated by me.)

This part of Afghanistan is more stable than the other region which makes you feel safe. So don't worry too worry much. I would like to say, have some patience. Only a "couple" more weeks and I'll be back.
May their senseless deaths not be in vain. Rest in Peace, Hélène, Egil, Besmillah, Fasil, and Pim. Your sacrifices will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

There's been some buzz about Karzai visiting California next week. He'll be at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on June 11th. The after that he'll be at the University of California in Davis.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pamela Constable, an Afghan Voice favorite, has a new article in the Washington Post today that contends that Karzai is busy trying to broker a backroom deal with the Northern Alliance to preserve his own position and to make sure they--the Northern Alliance warlords--don't create any mayhem. That's old news however; these talks have happened sporadically over the past two years. The most worrisome news is buried deep inside the story.

Some Pashtun leaders, however, are said to regard Karzai's outreach to ethnic rivals as a further betrayal of their interests after more than two years in which Northern Alliance figures have held many key posts in the transitional government. Sources said two senior Pashtuns in the Karzai administration, including Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, are seriously considering challenging him or backing alternative candidates.

Even some Pashtun figures who said they would support Karzai's candidacy expressed disappointment in his leadership, saying he has been unwilling to stand up to regional bosses despite enjoying strong international support -- and is now snubbing his tribal constituents while courting perennial adversaries.

"People were lukewarm before, but now that has turned to bitterness," said a Pashtun tribal leader. "Without the Pashtun vote, Karzai is nothing. We are his natural allies and supporters, but he is ignoring us. It is a huge mistake for him to make deals with people like Rabbani unless he has fortified himself and made sure we are there guarding his back."
The unnamed Pashtun tribal leader is right. Karzai may be working hard on a bipartisan ticket, but he's forgetting the people in his own backyard--the Pashtuns. Without them, he's nothing.

This is kind of off-topic, but I thought it'd be interesting to note. According to new evidence uncovered by the German military, German soldiers fathered more than 50,000 children during the occupation of Holland during the Second World War. Oh, the Germans stopped counting in 1944 so the number is likely to be a bit higher.

When it comes to counterterrorism, there is often talk about removing "the walls" between the intelligence agencies to that they can coordinate better and share intelligence with each other. Well, perhaps we ought to remove another so-called wall, this one between the CIA and Special Forces. The Christian Science Monitor's Ann Scott Tyson explains.

It was "High Noon" in Afghanistan. On the dusty main street of the border town of Orgun, a large crowd gathered as three US Special Forces soldiers confronted the corrupt local warlord.

Master Sgt. Mark Bryant positioned his men for a gunfight, then made the first move. "We pulled him and his guys out of the car, and told him 'Hey, you're on foot now. We're confiscating this car because it doesn't belong to you,' " he said.

After a tense standoff, warlord Zakim Khan backed down and left town, culminating months of effort by the Special Forces team to end his grip on the Orgun valley. But the hard-won progress in Orgun proved fleeting, Bryant says. Thanks to a $20,000 monthly CIA stipend intended to buy his loyalty, Mr. Khan survived his 2002 ouster and is now back in power. In fact, knowingly or not, the CIA sealed his comeback by abruptly cutting off US wages for a 300-man Afghan militia that the Special Forces had lured away from Khan and trained, a military official says.

"We don't control that money," Bryant says. "So now you have 300 [well-trained] fighters and you're just going to tell them: 'OK, guys, see ya. Have a nice day.' "

The story of Orgun illustrates how conflicting priorities between the CIA and elite US military units can sometimes hamper efforts to forge alliances with indigenous forces and tribes - relationships increasingly vital to uproot terrorist groups from lawless regions in Afghanistan and around the world.
Fortunately, Tyson reports that Congress is making sure that Special Forces get their own budget, which would make sure that they are more successful in the long term. The bill that would make sure this happens has passed the House, but the Senate hasn't had time to vote on it yet.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

I don't think anybody noticed or cared but during the second part of last night's Nightline, Ted Koppel read the names of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Even though there were only names and no pictures, it was touching. For the record, 122 American servicemen and women have died in Afghanistan.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Read this quote from a militiaman who just turned over his weapons.

"We have our freedom, so I won't miss this gun," he said, patting the steel barrel. "They said the army will protect us now. They said the government will find us jobs, but we'll see. I have some land, but there's no water, and now they're cutting down all the poppy. What will happen to men like me, I really don't know."
Neither do I, but let's hope for the best. From an article by Pamela Constable in last Monday's Washington Post.)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

On March 16th, the much-praised Washington Bureau of Knight Ridder reported on the "Information Collection Program," or ICP, a "U.S.-funded effort to collect intelligence in Iraq" run by the Iraqi National Congress, which is headed by the infamous Ahmed Chalabi. The story was basically that the INC fed the world-press with ICP-information that was known to be false and dubious. All this information was based on a letter send by the INC to the Senate Appropriations Committee titled "Summary of ICP product cited in major English-language news outlets worldwide (October 2001-May 2002)" which listed all the articles and publications in which ICP-information was cited. You can read the list here. If you read the list, you may notice that a man by the name of Christopher Hitchens is cited. Twice, actually.

Hitchens and his editors do readers a great disservice by conveniently failing to disclose that fact in an article published today that defends-—surprise, surprise!—-Ahmed Chalabi. If the charge (that Hitchens published false information provided to him by the INC through the ICP-program) is false, he should say so. But by avoiding the issue, Slate readers are led to believe that Hitchens is Chalabi's personal propagandist.

(You can e-mail Slate editors at: letters@slate.com.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Hamid Karzai has been named the recipient of the 2004 Philadelphia Liberty Medal. Karzai will be following in the footsteps of people like Jimmy Carter, Thurgood Marshall, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel in 1994, Shimon Peres and Colin Powell. I wonder what he'll do with the $100,000 that he will accompanies the medal.