Friday, September 19, 2003

AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: I've been too busy to post anything today (or is it yesterday?). Been busy with dealing with the consequenses of hurricane (which is now a tropical storm) Isabel. Right now, we're having 50 mph winds gusts and awkward sounds coming from the roof of the house, presumably from various objects hitting the house. We all thought it was going to be a big one, but I think the local news networks simply overhyped it ("it" being the hurricane, of course). It has rained since noon today, which has created floods and mandatory evacuations about 15 miles from here (because of it being parallel to the Potomac River). Meanwhile, we have about 2 million without power (or so I heard; not sure about the accuracy of that number) in a state of 6 million. We haven't lost any power, but my lamp did start acting up. Schools and the federal government are shut down tomorrow too and the National Guard is helping out in the capitol.

Anyway, Steven Jones is posting on the politically detoriating situation in Afghanistan. I guess I was too busy fantasizing about Massoud to post anything about it. [Edit-Link doesn't work. Go here and look for "Troubles in Afghanistan's future."

Meanwhile, heads are rolling in Kabul. Basir Salangi, the Kabul police chief, has been dismissed because of an ungoing scandal, something I have been trying to write about since it perfectly characterizes the situation in Afghanistan. Salangi bulldozed poor people's homes (with possessions still inside) in the Wazir Akhar Khan neighbourhood to make way luxurious homes for... Defense Minister Fahim (Massoud's long-time buddy) and Education Minister Qanuni. Google won't tell you that Salangi used to be a northern alliance commander, and a member of Shura-e Nazar. (Shura-e-Nazar is an alliance created after the Soviet Union's invasion. It's a military alliance, not a political one. Most are members of Jamiat-e Islami and Nahzat-e Mille, the main Northern Alliance political parties.) Salangi's "police force" love to extort taxi drivers. Oh, and extort shopkeepers. And arrest political opponents. And beat up critical journalists.

By the standards of Afghanistan, this is small fry. Yet this is not without significance, not least because it fuels opposition to the government, and to the international and American forces that are supporting it, in the interim President Hamid Karzai's patchy power base. It also underscores a point that so many Afghans have been making: no warlords in the government.

But, of course, there is some good news out there: privatization has started with foreign banks coming into Afghanistan. We're part of the Silk Road again. Bush is sending 2 billion in extra aid and there's more hints of an ISAF-expansion, even though I remain skeptical of that happening. All in all, the message remains the same and it will stay this way for years to come: there's a lot work to be done. Don't forget us. (This message is also destined for you too, Democratic Presidential Candidates!)

UPDATE: Big boom. A huge tree just fell in front of our house! I was afraid it was going to fall, so I had warned the neighbors not to park there, just in case. No damage, fortunately. I'm a damn savior for the insurance companies! This does mean I will have to take out the chainsaw and start cutting tomorrow, since the tree is in front of our house. Oh, well.


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