Saturday, October 25, 2003

AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: The latest briefing on Afghanistan:

  • The Afghan government has officialy launched the UN-sponsored "Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Program" (DDR), kicking it off in the far northern province of Kunduz, which borders Uzbekistan. The program was formed to disarm the 100,000 militia loyal to different warlords and integrate them into civilian life. I am and remain pessimistic, but the Washington Post, which seems to be the only newspaper with decent coverage of Afghanistan, has a more optimistic piece. According to the story, in return for their weapons, "each fighter [is] handed a plastic ID card that entitled him to $200, a change of civilian clothes, a box of food and vocational training and employment counseling in such fields as land mine clearance, road construction and factory work." While Fahim-loyalist Gen. Daud Khan's (not the cousin of Zahir Shah, whom he disposed), disarmament of 1,000 fighters was a good, and mostly ceremonial sign, it won't be this easy in other places, I'm sure.

  • Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim is trying to ethnically and factionally balance his department to satisfy his critics. But he's still firmly in control with chief of staff Gen. Bismullah Khan beside him. Equal representation means nothing when you have tanks in the capital and defy the Bonn accord. It's about Fahim; what he does what he doesn't do; his opponents act according to Fahim's moves. This issue, too, comes down to the pacification of Afghanistan. With recent clashes between warlords (one loyal to Fahim) continuing despite cease-fires, the warlords will keep their arms as a deterrent and safe-guard from losing power.

  • The New York Times reviews Saira Shah's first book, "''The Storyteller's Daughter''. Shah is known most notably for her excellent documentary "Beneath the Veil," an undercover, under-burqa project that captured the brutality of the Taliban. Shah is the daughter of an aristocrat; an author and lyricist in the sufist tradition, Idries Shah. Idries Shah and Jelaluddin Rumi are two great Afghan sufis. I'm just sayin'.

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