Is Afghanistan Really Stuck in the Middle Ages?


Like it or not this article has the facts and interpretation spot on! Read this piece from Nancy Goldstone in the New York Times:

Miss the Middle Ages? Try Afghanistan

By Nancy Goldstone
Story posted 2010.10.16 at 12:05 AM PDT

 …For some time now, it has been obvious to me that the political model that best illustrates the philosophy and practice of the Afghan government is a medieval court… 

The methods and practices of medieval courts were certainly far removed from those Americans most cherish, such as voting, representation and protection of civil rights. Imposing a Western-style democracy on such a system is unfortunately similar to coating an unhusked coconut with chocolate and trying to pass it off as a Mounds bar…

In 1415, Henry V… employing high-tech, state-of-the-art weaponry, the longbow, walloped the French at Agincourt. Within a few years, the English occupied Paris and much of western France. Henry V appropriated the French throne, thereby dispossessing the dauphin, the rightful heir, who was forced to concede the capital. Although the formidable Henry would die soon after, he was replaced by his extremely competent brother, the duke of Bedford, who continued to rule France as regent. This series of events is eerily similar to what happened when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan, occupied Kabul and forced the Taliban into the countryside. 

The dauphin … held that part of the realm south of the Loire, just as today the Taliban exercises power over various enclaves outside the capital. The English vowed to eject him and, with the help of the duke of Burgundy …managed to win a number of battles …but… the duke of Burgundy expected to be paid for his participation… 

… eventually the English got tired of bribing the duke of Burgundy. … [who]unbeknownst to England, looked to sell his services elsewhere. Ambassadors from the duke’s court met surreptitiously with ambassadors from the dauphin’s court…

The result of these secret meetings was that the dauphin made discreet financial overtures and succeeded in separating the duke of Burgundy from his former allies. England … subsequently lost the war… without the support of the duke of Burgundy, there were never enough English soldiers to hold the kingdom.

On Monday, Karzai confirmed … “We have been talking to the Taliban as countrymen to countrymen. Unofficial talks have been held with Taliban representatives over an extended period.” On Thursday White House and NATO officials said that the U.S. had aided these discussions in the hope of promoting a negotiated peace. 

…Karzai will continue to hold the capital, with the Taliban and other warlords in control of the rest of the countryside. The Taliban will turn a blind eye to a certain percentage of opium trafficking, the proceeds of which will go to Karzai …Karzai and his supporters will go off to a comfortable retirement and the Taliban will ride into Kabul.  

Nancy Goldstone is the author, most recently, of “The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I.” Her next book, about Joan of Arc, will be published in 2012.

Read It All… 

Afghan bomber accidentally blows up militants

(HH here: I am not one to often indulge in schadenfreude “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate.” but in this case I am laughing like a loon. Talk about karma being a bitch!!)
Afghan bomber accidentally blows up militants
Posted 11 hours 15 minutes ago
Updated 11 hours 14 minutes ago

A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target, the Interior Ministry said.

“The terrorist was on his way to his destination and saying good-bye to his associates and then his suicide vest exploded,” a statement from the ministry said.

Taliban-led attacks in Afghanistan have escalated in the past year with suicide and roadside bombings insurgents’ weapons of choice.

The incident happened in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan where mainly British troops are struggling against a growing Taliban-led insurgency.

In a separate incident in Helmand, nine policemen were killed when Taliban insurgents attacked a police post in Nari Sarraj district, the Interior Ministry said.

Elsewhere, four Taliban insurgents were killed and seven policemen and two civilians wounded during a battle just outside Ghazni city, about 200 kilometres south-west of the capital Kabul, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.

On Friday, Washington is set to unveil a review of its strategy in Afghanistan, which is expected to emphasise the need to expand Afghan security forces and strengthen the country’s heavily aid-dependent economy.

– Reuters

U.S. may widen strikes in Pakistan( Take that Robert Spencer!!

(HH here: As I keep telling my conservative friends…Obama seems to be using the old Speak softly but carry a big stick…and he doesn’t seem to be afraid to use it. Which should do wonders in mending the attitude of the Iranians. If they see that Obama is not afraid to flex the military option then they might become more reasonable about nukes.)

By David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt Published: March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.

According to senior administration officials, two of the high-level reports on Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been forwarded to the White House in recent weeks have called for broadening the target area to reach the Taliban and other insurgent groups to a major sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta.

Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led the Taliban government that was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001, has operated with near impunity out of the region for years, along with many of his deputies.

The extensive missile strikes being carried out by Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones have until now been limited to the tribal areas, and have never been extended into Baluchistan, a sprawling province that is under the authority of the central government, and which abuts the parts of southern Afghanistan where recent fighting has been the fiercest. There remains fear within the American government that extending the raids would worsen tensions. Pakistan complains that the strikes violate its sovereignty.

But some American officials say the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to flee south toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable. In separate reports, groups led by both General David H. Petraeus, commander of American forces in the region, and Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, a top White House official on Afghanistan, have recommended expanding American operations outside the tribal areas if Pakistan cannot root out the strengthening insurgency.

Read it all by clicking on the title

Pakistan strikes deal with border clan to rein in militants

(HH here: This is good news I hope!)

By Ismail Khan Published: March 10, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: A major tribe with close ties to the Pakistani Taliban signed an agreement with the Pakistani government to hand over several of the militant group’s local leaders, to lay down arms and to stop harboring foreign militants.

The agreement on Monday with the Mamoond tribe, the largest and most strategically placed in the restive Bajaur region, followed a military victory against the local Taliban last month. It was one of the first major successes of the Pakistani forces against the militants and their affiliates in Al Qaeda since they started operations in the tribal areas in 2003.

Taliban forces in Bajaur then declared a unilateral cease-fire and the Mamoond, whose members live on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, decided to cooperate with the government.

According to the 28-point agreement, a copy of which was made available to The New York Times, the Mamoond will stop harboring foreign militants and will close down militant training camps.

The agreement also calls for the surrender of senior Taliban leaders in Bajaur, including a deputy, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, and the group’s chief spokesman, Maulvi Said Muhammad, who also goes by the name Maulvi Omar.

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Pakistan says Taliban beaten back in border region

The Associated Press
Saturday, February 28, 2009; 4:11 PM

KHAR, Pakistan — Pakistan has beaten the Taliban in a major stronghold close to the Afghan border, is close to victory in another and expects to pacify most of the remaining tribal areas before the end of the year, commanders said Saturday.

The upbeat assessment of conditions in the arid, mountainous regions of Bajur and Mohmand follows international criticism of Pakistan for accepting a cease-fire with militants behind a bloody campaign in Swat Valley, just next to the tribal regions.

Many analysts also fear that growing political turmoil between the government and opposition could distract attention from the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban just as Washington wants more concerted action.

The United States and independent analysts have praised the offensive in Bajur, saying it has helped stem the passage of militants from Pakistan into Afghanistan, where violence against American and NATO troops is running at its highest level since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Pakistan’s tribal regions are believed to be a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders. Foreign governments fear extremists there could be plotting attacks on the West.

Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, commander of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said the insurgency had been “dismantled” in Bajur after six months of battles between well-armed militants and soldiers backed by tanks and helicopter gunships.

He said 1,600 militants had been killed and 150 civilians had died. Both figures were impossible to verify independently.

“Their resistance has broken down. We control the roads,” he told reporters flown to the northwestern region by helicopter. “They have lost.”

Col. Saif Ullah, commander in the neighboring region of Mohmand, said troops had repelled insurgents from most of the territory and it would soon be cleared.

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Afghan Court Upholds Sentences in Quran Trial

Afghan appeals court upholds 20-year sentences for publishers of translated Quran
By RAHIM FAIEZ and HEIDI VOGT Associated Press Writer
KABUL February 15, 2009 (AP)
The Associated Press

An appeals court in Afghanistan upheld 20-year prison sentences for two men who published a translation of the Quran that drove religious leaders to call for their execution.
(HH here: excuse me, but didn’t NATO “assist” in setting up the new Constitution there? Graves from Voltaire to Jefferson must be burning from the friction.)

A high percentage of schools in the war-torn country are being rebuilt. The panel ruled Sunday that the men were guilty of modifying the Quran — a crime punishable by death. However, the three-judge panel reiterated a lower court ruling giving the men 20 years each.

The controversial text is a translation of Islam’s holy book into an Afghan language without the original Arabic verses alongside. Muslims regard the Arabic Quran as words given directly by God. A translation is not considered a Quran itself, and it is believed that a mistranslation could warp God’s word.

A host of Muslim clerics in this conservative Islamic state have condemned the translation — which was published in 2007 and handed out for free — as blasphemous and accused its publishers of setting themselves up as false prophets.

(HH again: as I have followed this story not once has there been any explanation of a particular verse that has been found to be false. The conflict seems to be simply that the Arabic original was not included. The original is seen as the sacred words of God and to exist in Heaven on a real tablet…in Arabic. I imagine the fear of the clerics is that if it becomes common for the Arabic to be omitted people MIGHT try to reinterpret certain verses and the masses would not be able to compare to the original. 20 years? Lucky not to be dead? Is it just me or does this seem a tad harsh?)

Critics have said the trial illustrates the undue influence of hard-line clerics in Afghanistan’s fledgling legal system.

Chief judge Abdul Salam Qazizada invoked Islamic Shariah law when reading out the sentence, saying death would not have been an extreme punishment.
“He who commits such an act is an infidel and should be killed” according to some interpretations of Shariah law, Qazizada said.

Qazizada did not explain why they didn’t issue a harsher verdict.
Zalmai’s lawyer, Abdul Qawi Afzeli, said both men plan to appeal again, pushing the case the Supreme Court.

(HH: lets hope they show a bit more restraint.)

The appeals court reduced the sentence of the owner of the print shop that published the book to 15 months, which he has already served, from five years. Three other men charged with trying to help Zalmai flee the country were sentenced to just over seven months, also time already served.

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