Tag Archive | "Afghanistan"

First British reporter killed in Afghanistan

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First British reporter killed in Afghanistan

Posted on 11 January 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 1,186

LONDON: A newspaper journalist became the first British reporter to die covering the war in Afghanistan when he was killed in an explosion while embedded with US Marines, officials said Sunday.
Rupert Hamer of the Sunday Mirror newspaper was blown up Saturday by a roadside bomb as he accompanied Marines patrolling near Nawa, southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence in London said.

Philip Coburn, 43, a photographer for the British tabloid working alongside Hamer, was injured in the explosion and was “in a serious but stable condition,” officials said. A US Marine also died in the blast.

Hamer, a 39-year-old father of three young children and the paper’s defence correspondent, was the first British journalist to die in the Afghanistan conflict, the Foreign Office said.

He was the second foreign journalist to be killed in the country in the space of 10 days.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “My heartfelt thoughts and sympathies are with the families, friends and colleagues of Rupert and Philip.

“Their courage, skill and dedication to reporting from the frontline was incredibly important and ensured that the world could see and read about our heroic troops.”

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More Drones for Afghanistan

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More Drones for Afghanistan

Posted on 11 January 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 1,987

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kabul, Afghanistan: United States is rushing to place more spy drones over Afghanistan for hunting terrorist commanders and protecting allied forces as the Unmanned Surveillance planes are proving “most critical” in the war against terrorism.

“The demand for Predator and Reaper drones has surged since the terror attacks in 2001 and they have become the most critical weapons for hunting insurgent leaders and protecting allied forces”, a US daily said today quoting Senior Military Commanders.

The Paper said Washington was now in the process of sending upgraded Reaper drones with multi-dimensional spy cameras to Afghanistan by next year even as analysts are finding it more and more difficult to sift through the amount of intelligence inputs being provided by the UAVs.

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President leaves for Syria on Thursday

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President leaves for Syria on Thursday

Posted on 03 January 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 1,207

President Asif Zardari is leaving for Syria on a three-day visit on Thursday to offer his condolence on the death of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s younger brother Majid al-Assad, who passed away last month.

The president will also visit Dubai on his return from Damascus. He will visit Turkey in the last week of this month, where preparations are underway in Ankara to host a new trilateral summit with Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be followed by a regional conference on Afghanistan with the participation of neighbours of the war-torn country.

At the trilateral summit, President Abdullah Gull, Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari will discuss host of issues. The summit is expected to take place at the end of this month, diplomatic sources told media here on Saturday.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani cancelled his trip to Devos to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) as an austerity measure. The participation to the WEF annual meeting is by invitation only and strictly limited to the criteria and quota of each stakeholder group.

Prime Minister Gilani is designating a federal minister to represent Pakistan in the WEF, the sources said. President Zardari would visit Dubai second time in a fortnight, the sources said.

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What Is India Doing in Afghanistan?

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What Is India Doing in Afghanistan?

Posted on 28 November 2009 by PakBee - Total hits: 3,453

Afghanistan IndiaTribal legends claim that in the foothills of the Afghan mountains, Cain (Qabil), an arable farmer, committed the first murder by killing his brother Abel (Habil), the shepherd. Cain and Abel have long been understood as the first and second sons of Adam and Eve in the religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Their story is told in the Bible and Torah at Genesis 4:1-16 and the Qur’an at 5:26-32. Although their story is cited in the Quran, neither of them is mentioned by name.

In present-day Afghanistan, this story comes to life in a figurative sense: Cain, the poppy-growing farmer, continues to kill Abel, the shepherd who lives in the mountains. Even leaving myths and fables side, sons of Afghanistan have been killing each other, albeit with external assistance, for thirty years.

But things may change for better—or worse—on Thursday, when Afghanistan holds its second democratic presidential election; its first democratic election in 2004 yielded Hamid Karzai as president. In preparation for this historical event, President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan since assuming the office of President in January 2009. Obama had hoped to head off as much insurgence as possible before the election, thereby assuring a mostly peaceful vote that can be viewed as legitimate, both by Afghans and the international community.

The likelihood of a nonviolent Afghanistan on August 20 seems a bit much to ask for. The Taliban has already promised forceful opposition to the election, threatening to cut off the ink-stained fingers of those who cast their votes. Taliban leaders across Afghanistan have asked true followers of Islam to boycott the election, and foreign and local troops alike are ramping up security around polling centers in anticipation of potential unrest. However, the possibility remains that Taliban threats will keep people away from the polls on Thursday, and this eventuality could mean problems for Afghanistan in the future.

This election is critical not only for Afghanistan but for all stakeholders including the United States, Pakistan, India, and Iran; and not for the same reason. One cannot be certain that this election will optimize governance model or reduce corruption or for that matter enhance security posture: all inter-related variables, all necessary for a stable Afghanistan.

Our friend at Carnegie Council Mr. David Speedie who has just released four policy papers on Afghanistan points out that “the U.S./NATO and Russia have clear and urgent common interests in promoting long-term stability in Afghanistan, yet cooperation between Russia and the West is “episodic,” rather than strategic or systematic.” Speedie advises us to look at Afghanistan in the broader context of Central Asia and feels that current challenges facing NATO may render it “obsolete in its present form.”

Pakistan MapFor Pakistan this election is critical because it will determine how Afghanistan is positioned in the geo-political landscape. First of all, if Afghanistan is decoupled from its South Asian neighbor and aligned with Central Asian states, Pakistan will loose leverage. But an unstable Afghanistan, the status quo, is detrimental for Pakistan as well. Secondly, if Afghanistan continues to develop deeper ties with India it will create imbalances in the region. It is no secret or exaggeration that India’s growing influence in Afghanistan comes at the expense of Pakistan’s interest. Exploiting the post 9/11 situation and piggy backing on the US invasion, India has accelerated its own presence and influence in Afghanistan. Outcome of the election will determine which direction this tide will turn.

In an August 13 question-and-answer session, Karin von Hippel, codirector of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at Washington D.C.’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, responded to questions about the fate of Afghanistan in the face of these elections. When asked about the possible outcomes of voting, von Hippel described a few different scenarios, the first being that incumbent Hamid Karzai would win by a small percentage over 50%, which is what he needs to win without a runoff with another opponent. Von Hippel thinks this will most likely create the least amount of instability, since any large margin of victory for Karzai might cause “accusations of fraud, public challenges by competing candidates, and potentially widespread violence in the north and in Kabul where many Tajiks live.”

Another possible development involves a runoff, most likely between Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a half-Tajik, half-Pashtun doctor who is widely considered to be Karzai’s biggest competition. This situation might also lead to hostility, since a strong Taliban presence in majority Pashtun districts might lead to a low voter turnout in areas where Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, has the biggest following. In the case of a runoff, most polls predict a win for Karzai.

Whatever the outcome of the election, von Hippel feels “the results will be considered a positive step for Afghanistan if they are perceived as mostly free and fair,” although at the moment a free and fair outcome does not seem highly probable. In Kabul on August 17, Abdullah told a crowd of supporters that his victory was ensured, as long as the election was fair and no fraud was committed. In a country like Afghanistan where tension runs high and a governmental shift could mean the difference between life and death for many people, these statements are highly inflammatory. In fact, some fear that Abdullah’s talk of election fraud will cause his supporters to riot if he does not emerge victorious.

To be fair, Abdullah’s allegation of fraud is not the mere blathering of a man desperate for power. Indeed, there have been rumblings of discontent with the voting process from many corners over the past few weeks. In addition to the discovery of thousands of fake voter registration cards across the country, as many as 700 of 7,000 planned polling locations are expected to be shut down due to violence, particularly in Taliban strongholds in the south. If this is the case, it is no wonder many cannot bring themselves to hope for a truly democratic election.

Karzai and Abdullah have stolen much of the international media spotlight aimed at Afghanistan in the weeks preceding the election, but there are in fact two other contenders who are seen as potential dark horses in the upcoming race. Ramazan Bashardost, an ethnic Hazara with a formidable education, is making headway in the election, gaining approval as an outspoken opponent of the current corruption and abuse of power that exists in Afghanistan’s government.

Ashraf Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun and respected scholar, is a former Afghan finance minister and World Bank senior analyst. Ghani enjoys a great deal of popularity on the international level as a result of his thoughts on state building, and his campaign has focused on terminating governmental corruption in Afghanistan and developing a strong infrastructure for Afghanistan.

Neither Bashardos nor Ghani are expected to win a large amount of votes on Thursday, but their presence in the election is vital, if only as obstacles to a runoff-free win for Karzai.

Regardless of outcome, Thursday’s elections will be a huge milestone for Afghanistan, and an event that will determine not only its president, but also the outlook for the future.

India is already hoping for a Karzai win: President Karzai who studied in Indian University and has enjoyed living there during his youth fully embraced India in his last term. India is looking for access to the energy-rich Central Asian states like Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and views Kabul as a gateway. India is also eager to neutralize Pakistan’s influence. But India that has historically supported Northern Alliance, Rasheed Dostum and other anti-Pushtoon elements is bound to change the eco-system of the region. Even after US leaves, Afghanistan will have to deal with this regional hegemony.

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A Muslim Solution for Afghanistan

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A Muslim Solution for Afghanistan

Posted on 22 November 2009 by PakBee - Total hits: 7,303

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Afghanistan Muslim“After eight years of US involvement in Afghanistan, a strategic crossroads within Asia, the country remains a deadly conflict zone. In fact, this weekend insurgents attacked two US military bases along the Pakistani border. Helping Afghanistan stand on its own – an imperative for both regional and Western states – is a task that will take decades. But it is increasingly clear that it is not one that the West can perform….

However, a precipitous Western withdrawal from Afghanistan would leave a major void in the state….

Afghanistan is factionalized, pockmarked by ethnic and tribal divisions. Its government’s sole success is an election rigged in its own favor. Warlords run much of the country. The national Army and police are years away from being able to secure the country on their own. Other state institutions lack the minimal human and financial resources to function without external crutches. US and Western troops should leave. But because Afghanistan will remain dependent on international aid for development and security, troops cannot leave without something to fill the vacancy.

The solution? Muslim and regional states must fill the void….”

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