|Kabul: 12:30 PM      |
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
What is the real security situation in Afghanistan? Risks, threats, and actions (NYT, WP, AP)
My note to the articles below: when the NYT and WP talk about the "alarming" resurgence of Taliban in the south of Afghanistan, are they using the term Taliban in the same sense that they did when they reported on the US forces releasing "moderate" Taliban ex-Minister Muttawakil last month and the U.S.-backed provisional administration holding talks with "moderate" Taliban a few weeks ago?
A Scary Afghan Road By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF November 15, 2003 The New York Times Here's a foreign affairs quiz: 1. In the two years since the war in Afghanistan, opium production has: (A) virtually been eliminated by Hamid Karzai's government and American forces. (B) declined 30 percent, but eradication is not expected until 2008. (C) soared 19-fold and become the major source of the world's heroin. 2. In Paktika and Zabul, two religiously conservative parts of Afghanistan, the number of children going to school: (A) has quintupled, with most girls at least finishing third grade. (B) has risen 40 percent, although few girls go to school. (C) has plummeted as poor security has closed nearly all schools there. The correct answer to both questions, alas, is (C). With the White House finally acknowledging that the challenge in Iraq runs deeper than gloomy journalism, the talk of what to do next is sounding rather like Afghanistan. And that's alarming, because we have flubbed the peace in Afghanistan even more egregiously than in Iraq. "There is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists," Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, writes in a grim new report on Afghanistan. I strongly supported President Bush's war in Afghanistan, and I was there in Kabul and saw firsthand the excitement and relief of ordinary Afghans, who were immensely grateful to the U.S. for freeing them (a crucial distinction between Iraq and Afghanistan, to anyone who covered both wars, is that you never saw the same adulation among Iraqis). Mr. Bush oversaw a smart war in Afghanistan, and two years ago the crisp mountain air there pullulated with hope - along with pleas for more security. One day back then when I was thinking of driving to the southeast, six Afghans arrived from there - minus their noses. Taliban guerrillas had stopped their vehicle at gunpoint and chopped off their noses because they had trimmed their beards. I stroked my chin, admired my own proboscis, and decided not to drive on that road. Every foreign and local official said then that Afghanistan desperately needed security on roads like that one. But the Pentagon made the same misjudgment about Afghanistan that it did about Iraq: it fatally underestimated the importance of ensuring security. The big winner was the Taliban, which is now mounting a resurgence. "Things are definitely deteriorating on the security front," notes Paul Barker, the Afghan country director for CARE International. Twelve aid workers have been killed in the last year and dozens injured. A year ago, there was, on average, one attack on aid workers per month; now such attacks average one per day. In at least three districts in the southeast, there is no central government representation, and the Taliban has de facto control. In Paktika and Zabul, not only have most schools closed, but the conservative madrasas are regaining strength. "We've operated in Afghanistan for about 15 years," said Nancy Lindborg of Mercy Corps, the American aid group, "and we've never had the insecurity that we have now." She noted that the Taliban used to accept aid agencies (grudgingly), but that the Taliban had turned decisively against all foreigners. "Separate yourself from Jews and the Christian community," a recent open letter from the Taliban warned. It ordered Afghans to avoid music, funerals for aid workers and "un-Islamic education" - or face a "bad result." The opium boom is one indication of the downward spiral. The Taliban banned opium production in 2000, so the 2001 crop was only 185 metric tons. The U.N. estimates that this year's crop was 3,600 tons, the second-largest in Afghan history. The crop is worth twice the Afghan government's annual budget, and much of the profit will support warlords and the Taliban. An analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, who seeks to direct more attention to the way narco-trafficking is destabilizing the region, says that Afghanistan now accounts for 75 percent of the poppies grown for narcotics worldwide. "The issue is not a high priority for the Bush administration," he said. If Afghanistan is a White House model for Iraq, heaven help us.
High Risks in Afghanistan November 17, 2003 The New York Times While the failure of American policy in Iraq in recent months has been painfully visible and at the forefront of public debate, the Bush administration's failures in Afghanistan have been as serious, and the risks are also great. It was Afghanistan, not Iraq, that was the spawning ground for the Sept. 11 attacks. And now, less than two years after President Bush celebrated his first military victory, Afghanistan is in danger of reverting to a deadly combination of rule by warlords and the Taliban, the allies and protectors of Osama bin Laden. A revived Taliban army, flush with new recruits from Pakistan, is staging a frightening comeback. Major cities remain in the hands of the corrupt and brutal warlords. Much of the countryside is too dangerous for aid workers. The postwar pro-American government led by Hamid Karzai rules Kabul and little else. Opium poppies are once again a major export crop. And Osama bin Laden remains at large. This alarming state of affairs is not mainly the result of hidden conspiracies or bad luck. It flows from a succession of bad American policy decisions. These began with the Bush administration's reluctance to commit enough American troops to Afghanistan. Then it prematurely declared victory in its rush to a war of choice with Iraq. The reliance on a relatively small American force in Afghanistan was hailed at the time as a new model for low-casualty, high-impact warfare. But it forced Washington to rely on Tajik and Uzbek warlords and their followers to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan's cities. Many of those same cities are still controlled by those warlords. The limited size of United States forces may also have contributed to Osama bin Laden's escape by leaving much of the early searching to poorly equipped Afghan militias and Pakistani border forces with no strong motive to succeed. The hunt for America's Public Enemy No. 1 should have been the Pentagon's No. 1 priority. Another costly mistake was the administration's failure to press for a robust international peacekeeping force that could displace the warlords and strengthen the central government. NATO recently took over the leadership of the 5,500-member international force and is now preparing to send some peacekeepers outside Kabul for the first time. The numbers being considered, fewer than 500, are still far too small. Washington also did not spend enough on postwar aid, slowing down such vital projects as repairing the main highway from Kabul to Kandahar. American reconstruction aid has now been increased by $1.2 billion for the next year. That is not yet enough. The drafting of a new constitution is also a hopeful development. But as things stand now, it is no more than the Kabul City Charter. Unless far more is done to establish security in the many areas where it is still lacking and to reinforce the authority of the Karzai government, there can be no economic and political revival. There is a very real risk that soon, Afghanistan may once again turn into a sanctuary and training ground for Al Qaeda and other international terrorists.
The Washington Post November 16, 2003 Security Still Elusive in Afghanistan; Resurgent Taliban, Warlords Threaten Political Stability By Pamela Constable Two years after Afghan and U.S.-led military forces routed the Islamic Taliban militia from Kabul, large sections of Afghan territory remain in the grip of local militias, while the southeast has become the target of violent attacks and political wooing by resurgent Taliban forces based along the Pakistani border. But after months of hesitation, sporadic surgical strikes and debate over long-term strategies, both Afghan leaders and foreign military officials are now moving swiftly to take decisive action against both regional warlords and the revived Taliban movement. In recent days, many international observers have warned that unless Afghanistan's security situation improves, progress toward economic recovery and political freedom -- including a national assembly to ratify a new constitution in December and presidential elections next year -- could be in jeopardy. A delegation from the U.N. Security Council, after a recent visit here, reported that lack of security had "affected the entire Afghan peace process," seriously slowing reconstruction efforts and posing a "direct challenge" to the U.N.-sponsored agreement that laid out Afghanistan's political transition after the collapse of Taliban rule. Afghan officials, meanwhile, expressed frustration at their limited ability to tackle an array of security problems -- from extortion and intimidation by local militia commanders, to the rapidly expanding opium trade, and car bombings and school burnings by regrouped Taliban forces seeking to sabotage the country's reconstruction. "We have so many challenges, so little capacity and so few resources. We have terrorists, warlords, drug traffickers, failures by our own people. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and ask what I'm doing here," Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said. "The key to establishing security is to win people's trust, and the government needs to do a lot more." Jalali said he was optimistic about several initiatives, particularly a plan to revamp military and civilian leadership in a cluster of northern provinces where violence erupted in October between two long-feuding militia leaders, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum and Gen. Attah Mohammad. Both have agreed to the proposal but still retain their troops and weapons. "I am sure this plan will succeed," Jalali said. "The people are strongly behind it, we have no other choice than to become a legitimate government, and I see more and more support from the international community for such reforms." If it fails, he added, "there is no need for me to be here any more. I don't want to be a figurehead." Last month, the government also launched a U.N.-aided program to disarm tens of thousands of militiamen and retrain them for civilian life. So far about 1,200 fighters have been disarmed in Kunduz and Paktia provinces, but officials are not yet sure they can persuade militia commanders in more volatile regions to give up their weapons. The biggest test will come in Kabul, where thousands of militia forces and heavy weapons remain despite a U.N. ban. Afghan military officials said a number of military units had been withdrawn from the city, but no official disarmament has taken place, and foreign military observers said some of the movement amounted to only a reconfiguring of forces. The most serious threat to Afghanistan's prospects for peace and stability comes from the revived Taliban forces that retreated into Pakistan in late 2001. They have now regained strength and established footholds in a half-dozen provinces stretching 400 miles along the Pakistani border. Since summer these forces have staged dozens of attacks, including the murder of four Afghan irrigation project workers in September, the kidnapping of a Turkish highway engineer last month and a car bombing this week at a U.N. office in Kandahar that injured two people. "The situation is much more serious than a year ago," said Vikram Parekh, a Kabul-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit monitoring organization. "The cross-border infiltration is better financed, armed and equipped. This is not just hit-and-run. The Taliban's military leadership has been reconstituted, and in several provinces there is a more or less permanent presence of anti-government forces." Until now, the official response has been piecemeal and plagued by problems. The government must contend with a rugged border area where guerrillas can easily melt away, alliances between Taliban leaders and fellow ethnic Pashtuns, limited government authority and manpower in rural areas, and lack of a coordinated strategy between international anti-terrorist aims and Afghan nation-building needs. There are about 11,000 U.S. combat troops stationed here, and in the past three months they have staged several major combat operations in eastern Afghanistan. More than 300 anti-government fighters have been reported killed, but missile and rocket attacks have continued against coalition convoys and bases near the Pakistani border, and 13 coalition troops have died. On Nov. 7, coalition troops launched Operation Mountain Resolve, a high-altitude offensive, in Konar and Nurestan provinces, adjacent hilly border regions that are believed to shelter a network of fighters loyal to the Taliban, al Qaeda and the renegade Afghan militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In recent comments, U.S. military spokesmen have played down the terrorist threat, saying it is confined to small areas and that conditions nationwide are much better than they were at the end of Taliban rule, which collapsed when the militia fled Kabul on Nov. 13, 2001. "You are not hearing much about terrorism and anti-coalition activity in 80 percent of the country," Col. Rodney Davis told reporters here last week. "That is an improvement from two years ago." Yet in addition to armed raids, U.S. military officials have recently decided to expand an experimental program of secure regional assistance outposts, known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams, into vulnerable provinces, including Ghazni, Khost and Kandahar. These outposts, already operating in four cities, provide economic aid, support for government initiatives and an armed presence. Military sources said that while combat operations would continue against the Taliban and al Qaeda, the U.S. military's focus would soon shift toward providing long-term security to protect efforts to build stability. A new military command is expected to be set up in Kabul to coordinate this initiative. NATO officials, in turn, have finally heeded Afghan President Hamid Karzai's repeated pleas to expand the foreign peacekeeping mission in Kabul. Last week, NATO officials also said they would establish quick deployment teams that could travel to trouble spots for limited assignments. So far, however, only Norway and Germany have volunteered troops for this effort. "There are 1.4 million soldiers in NATO. Where are they? Why are so few countries stepping up to the plate?" asked Maj. Gen. Andrew Leslie, deputy commander of the 5,500 peacekeeping forces here. "The left hand has made the commitment, but the right hand is not ponying up." Leslie said that the situation in southern Afghanistan "will keep getting worse if we don't do something about it" and that the provincial assistance teams were only a "temporary answer in the absence of a coherent vision" for how to bring security and stability to the country. "The status quo will only lead to failure," he said. Other analysts suggested that the best way to combat Taliban influence was to pay more attention to local politics. While the Taliban has intimidated foreign charities and others through terrorist attacks, it has made deeper inroads by reviving old alliances and capitalizing on discontent. In recent months, Karzai has taken a series of steps to replace ineffective military and civilian leaders in several provinces, notably Kandahar and Paktia. But experts said that in many southeastern districts, government offices and services are almost nonexistent, leaving a vacuum for anti-government forces to fill. "In a lot of the south, the Taliban have been free to operate from Day One," Parekh said. In some districts, he said, local officials are in regular contact with Taliban leaders; in others there is only a "skeletal government structure," so people look to other groups for protection. Jalali said the government had adopted a broad strategy for the provinces under a Taliban threat, including rehabilitating government offices, training police with help from the new foreign military teams, replacing more local officials, creating tribal self-defense groups and jump-starting the economy with an infusion of aid. "I believe the best way to fight terrorism is to help people who feel deprived," Jalali said. In some areas, public offices are "huts with no one in them. Someone comes on a motorcycle, fires a few shots and people think the government has been attacked," he said. "We want them to see new buildings with Afghan flags flying on top."
By JONATHAN FOWLER The Associated Press 11/10/03 2:46 PM KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- American and Afghan troops launched a new anti-terror operation in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Monday, the latest effort to destroy a network of insurgents including al-Qaida, the Taliban and forces loyal to a renegade warlord. Meanwhile, in another sign of the struggle to stabilize Afghanistan, government loyalists in the south appealed for help fighting the Taliban -- two years after the militia's rulers were driven from power by a U.S.-led invasion. Operation Mountain Resolve began Friday in Nuristan and Kunar provinces with an airdrop by the 10th Mountain Division, U.S. military spokesman Col. Rodney Davis said. The provinces are about 95 miles northeast of the capital, Kabul. "The main objective is against terrorism," Davis said. "It is focused on destroying anti-coalition elements, disrupting their ability to operate in the eastern region of Afghanistan. "We want the anti-coalition forces to understand that there is no sanctuary for them anywhere in Afghanistan." He did not say how long the operation was expected to last nor would he provide any details about manpower or the equipment being used. The combined operation by U.S. troops and Afghan militia is likely to target members of al-Qaida, Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami, a group loyal to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar, a former prime minister, has called for a jihad, or holy war, against foreign troops in Afghanistan, but so far has eluded U.S. efforts to arrest or kill him. Hekmatyar issued a statement Monday saying attacks by his supporters will not stop until the U.S.-led coalition and its "puppet government" withdraw from Afghanistan. "America knows that it has just one choice, that it has to leave Afghanistan and Iraq," the statement said. "America will only increase casualties in its forces if it increases its troops in Afghanistan or Iraq." The two-page, Pashtu-language statement was faxed to The Associated Press in Peshawar from an unknown location. Its authenticity was verified by Hizb-e-Islami official Salahuddin Salah. President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Jawid Luddin, said the three groups "probably are part of the same network." Afghanistan's national army is not participating in the new operation, but the U.S. military coordinated the offensive with Kabul, Karzai said. Karzai's central government, installed after the Taliban's ouster, wields limited influence outside Kabul and Luddin said it remains deeply concerned about poor security there. Parts of the north are controlled by rival warlords, who back the government only nominally. In the south, Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks in recent months against coalition and government troops, and Kabul loyalists. On Monday, an official from Zabul province, about 60 miles from the Taliban's former power base in Kandahar, urged the central government to send more troops because of mounting attacks in the remote mountainous region bordering Pakistan, where many Taliban are believed to have fled after their ouster. Zabul has experienced a recent string of bomb blasts, direct attacks and kidnappings by militants. "The Taliban are attacking, but nobody is paying any attention," said Zafar Khan, head of Zabul's Khak-e-Afghan district. "Afghans have been dying now for two decades and are fed up with this." Two weeks ago, Taliban insurgents seized a Turkish road engineer, Hasan Onal, on the highway in Zabul. They released his Afghan driver with a ransom note saying Onal would be executed within 48 hours unless authorities freed several Taliban prisoners, but the insurgents did not carry out their threat and instead began talks with the government. Khan said four of his relatives were kidnapped by the Taliban. Afghanistan has been at war virtually since 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded. The country descended into civil war after the Red Army withdrew in 1989.
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.