Posted by Kendall Harmon

Afghanistan is set to begin an unprecedented audit of the 8.1 million votes cast in the June 14 presidential election, a process that is expected to take at least three weeks and will delay the inauguration of a new president.

Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah agreed after marathon talks with Secretary of State John Kerry this weekend to a full audit of the bitterly contested election, which had threatened to split the country along ethnic and territorial lines.

In a political deal also brokered by Mr. Kerry, the two candidates said that in addition to accepting the results of the audit, they agreed that the winner of the election would form a "national unity government" that would include the losing side.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even the future role of the country’s warlords is uncertain. Karzai has kept most of these men off balance and relatively weak during his tenure, and deserves credit for doing so. Yet these men are not gone from public life. They have continued to profit from contracts and investments largely tied to the presence of foreign militaries: vested economic interest is a major factor that keeps them loyal to the democratic system. Indeed, in the 12 and a half years of Karzai’s rule, many have sanitized their images—shorter beards, fancier suits, more politically correct language. For better or worse, their sons and daughters, who seem more attuned to democratic practices, are now beginning to step into their fathers’ shoes.

Spanta says he doubts anyone could have fared better than Karzai in such a fragmented society. And yet the next president of Afghanistan will inherit a broken chain of command, weak institutions, and a variety of local powers that may prove difficult to bring to heel—all the more so because he will lack the personal connections that Karzai worked so hard to cultivate. “The question of whether the forces from the past will succeed again” or whether modernizing forces will take the country forward—“this has not been finalized.” Almost none of the achievements made under Karzai appear irreversible, Spanta lamented. Instead, Afghanistan remains a place stuck between modernity and its own splintered history. Which way it will move next is anyone’s guess.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a country of crippling poverty, ethnic fault lines and decades of war, Islamic piety offers many Afghans a rare thread of national solidarity. To reject Islam is seen as tantamount to treason.

“Religious identity is the only thing that Afghans can claim,” said Daud Moradian, a professor at the American University in Afghanistan. “They do not have a national identity, they do not have an economic identity, and there is no middle or working class here.”

That leaves Josef almost nowhere to turn for protection. The police would be no help. Converts report being beaten and sexually abused while in custody. His family in Afghanistan is also a dead end: His uncles are hunting for him now, too.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted June 22, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bergdahl, 28, was freed in exchange for five prisoners who were held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and is back in the hands of the U.S. military, the officials said.

Bergdahl disappeared when he reportedly walked away from a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009, carrying only a compass and a bottle of water. He was the only U.S. service member ever to be held captive by enemy forces in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 31, 2014 at 1:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The US government has inadvertently empowered warlords and nurtured corruption in Afghanistan, warns a strikingly candid new report from the Pentagon that offers a devastating window into worthy US intentions that ended in exorbitant waste.

The initial US focus on defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda created mutually dependent relationships between the US government and Afghan warlords “that empowered these warlords” and “expanded their opportunities for financial gain,” according to the study, which was produced by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s “lessons learned” department.

This was caused in large part by a “deluge” of military spending that “overwhelmed” the Afghan government’s ability to absorb it and later encouraged spending habits and graft that impeded the US war effort, the report concludes.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 1, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Afghanistan's Mitra Hemmat: Retail entrepreneur

Mitra Hemmat has occupied rarefied air since returning from Iran to Afghanistan in 2005, where she quickly achieved status as the nation’s top student, and won a scholarship to study in India.

A doctor who wears a black headscarf with a faux diamond broach, at 28 she accepts few limits, and dreams of giving back to her country “to help my people.” She plans to serve through medicine and one day win election to parliament.

“We just want peace; we don’t want to have to think about who is the president,” says Ms. Hemmat. “If it is bad, if things change [for the worse], I will go to another country,” says Hemmat. “My passport is always in my pocket. I would not stay.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted April 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide tod ay, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban, to cast their votes in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.

The turnout was so high that some polling centres ran out of ballot papers.

The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the US-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I have been called several times in the last few days, including by journalists, for opinions on our involvement in Afghanistan. The most often asked question is rather simplistic – understandable when a story has to fit into the bookends of other news events, but revealing in that Canadians desire that 12 years should be summarized into a thumbs-up or thumbs-down question. It is also indicative of the collective national withdrawal symptom and its accompanying amnesia.

To that simple question – “Was it worth it?” – the answer is yes. Afghanistan is far better off than what it was in 2001 by almost every possible metric. Certainly, many have died and continue to do so through insurgent actions and improvised explosive devices. Undeniably governance is weak and corruption embedded, but there are no longer public amputations and executions, there is no longer ethnic repression on the scale there once was, health care has improved and there remains a sense of hope. Hope that women won’t just be chattel once again and girls can continue to be schooled, hope that governance will improve, and hope that the roots of democracy and of an improving economic condition can continue to grow.

The Canadian Forces, our police and our diplomats did what they were asked and aside from the broader legacy it can be said that Canada’s presence in Kandahar prevented a Taliban takeover and that Canada set the conditions for the subsequent U.S. surge.

Read it all from the Globe and Mail.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanCanada

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Posted March 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...Father Luke is still planning to run this year — along with hundreds of other service members — as part of a “shadow” Boston Marathon in Afghanistan. “After I qualified for 2014, I knew I couldn’t run in Boston this year,” he said. “But I could bring Boston to Afghanistan.”

On Friday, in a telephone interview from Afghanistan, Father Luke said registration for “Boston Marathon/Afghanistan” had opened on Thursday. “And the response has been overwhelming,” with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines signing up from throughout Afghanistan, he said.

He said military commanders and Boston Athletic Association officials embraced the idea when he proposed it. (Bagram also hosted a “shadow” Boston Marathon a couple of years ago). So when service members cross the finish line in Afghanistan, they’ll receive the same medals handed out on Boylston Street.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSportsUrban/City Life and Issues* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted March 4, 2014 at 1:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. military has revised plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan to allow the White House to wait until President Hamid Karzai leaves office before completing a security pact and settling on a post-2014 U.S. troop presence, officials said.

The option for waiting reflects a growing belief in Washington that there is little chance of repairing relations with Mr. Karzai and getting him to sign the bilateral security agreement before elections scheduled for the spring.

"If he's not going to be part of the solution, we have to have a way to get past him," said a senior U.S. official. "It's a pragmatic recognition that clearly Karzai may not sign the BSA and that he doesn't represent the voice of the Afghan people."

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 10, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In much of the world this is a time of new beginnings. In Afghanistan, it is time to mark the beginning of an end: A dozen year commitment of foreign troops to fight the Taliban will wind down this year, meaning 51,000 American soldiers are poised to take their leave from a conflict that appears to be stumbling towards a stalemate, or worse.

The Afghanistan mission has been the longest military engagement in American history. For Canada, which saw 30,000 of its soldiers pass through the country over nine and a half years, it is the largest military operation since the Second World War. One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian soldiers and four civilians died, and by the end of 2010, a total of 1,859 military members had been wounded.

Those grim figures are just part of the reason why Afghanistan’s future should still matter – to Canada and its allies.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanCanada* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. and Afghan politicians are in the middle of a heated debate over whether a small American and NATO force will remain in Afghanistan at the end of next year.

But what's a political and strategic question at the negotiating table is an emotional question at bases around Afghanistan, where soldiers watch the discussions with one eye on their sacrifices over the past 12 years and the other on the American withdrawal from Vietnam four decades ago.

In short, they don't want to go home without the win.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorismWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In many ways, the war in Afghanistan is one of ideas, of narrative, of whose story is credible, says U.S. Army Major Dawud Agbere.

If that’s true, Agbere could be the most dangerous U.S. soldier that the Taliban face.

And he doesn’t even carry a gun.

Agbere, 45, is the only active-duty Muslim U.S. Army chaplain in Afghanistan and one of just four in the Army.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted July 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The uprising began in early February with a Taliban commander's knock on the door of Hajji Abdul Wudood.

The militant leader demanded that Wudood, a stout, weathered man of 60, surrender one of his eight sons, who was accused of spying on the Taliban for the Afghan government.

What Wudood did next triggered a revolt against the Taliban that has spread to a dozen villages in a region that has been among the nation's most formidable Taliban strongholds.

Fed up with beheadings and homemade bombs that killed 60 people in two villages the previous year, Wudood refused to hand over 25-year-old Abdul Hanan.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted June 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One day this month, a pair of Russian Mi-17 assault helicopters delivered two teams of Afghan commandos, their faces obscured by black masks, in a touch-and-go landing at this camp in a lush valley encircled by frosty peaks about 50 miles from Kabul.

A training squadron drawn from the most secretive counterterrorism units fielded by the United States and its NATO allies watched as the Afghan commandos stormed and cleared a three-story office building that was left conspicuously unfinished — the kind of structure favored by insurgents.

This is the combination of Afghan and allied troops that the Obama administration and the government in Kabul say will assume an increasing share of the combat burden in Afghanistan as the NATO alliance gradually hands over responsibility for security operations to Afghan troops.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted May 15, 2013 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a time when the whetted and arbitrary deficit-reduction knife is cutting bone out of critical U.S. government programs, the image of shopping bags stuffed with CIA cash handed off on a monthly basis to Afghan President Hamid Karzai — who reigns over one of the most corrupt governments on the planet — has outraged many Americans.

The New York Times, which revealed the years of payoffs this week, noted that "there is little evidence the payments bought the influence the CIA sought."

In fact, regular cash handouts of this type may do the opposite. They may well have enabled Karzai's frequent and theatrical outbursts against U.S. officials and policies, not to mention his collusion with some of his country's most corrupt and abusive officials. Such payoffs signal to Karzai — or other leaders like him — that he enjoys the unwavering support of the CIA, no matter what he does or says, and embolden him to thumb his nose at the United States whenever he feels like it.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Hamid Karzai acknowledged Monday that the Central Intelligence Agency has been dropping off bags of cash at his office for a decade, saying the money was used for “various purposes” and expressing gratitude to the United States for making the payments.

Mr. Karzai described the sums delivered by the C.I.A. as a “small amount,” though he offered few other details. But former and current advisers of the Afghan leader have said the C.I.A. cash deliveries have totaled tens of millions of dollars over the past decade and have been used to pay off warlords, lawmakers and others whose support the Afghan leader depends upon.

The payments are not universally supported in the United States government. American diplomats and soldiers expressed dismay on Monday about the C.I.A.’s cash deliveries, which some said fueled corruption. They spoke privately because the C.I.A. effort is classified.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 30, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How does a president bring the war in Afghanistan to an end? There are 68,000 American troops serving in the country as the war enters its 12th year.

The war hasn't been a major issue in the presidential campaign, and polls show American voters are tiring of the war. But the next commander in chief will find the Afghan war among the most difficult of many foreign policy challenges.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted October 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it has temporarily halted the training of Afghan Local Police in order to redo the vetting of current members after a string of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their international allies.

Forty-five international troops have been killed in a wave of insider attacks in Afghanistan this year, throwing doubt on the ability of Afghan and coalition forces to live and work together during a key time in the transition to Afghan control of security. International forces are set to hand over responsibility for the country's security to Afghans by the end of 2014.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted September 2, 2012 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An Afghan worker on a military base in southern Afghanistan opened fire and killed three U.S. troops, military officials said Saturday, bringing the toll to six American military fatalities in 24 hours at the hands of allies.

The NATO force said the attack took place late Friday in Helmand province, the Taliban movement's heartland, where a turncoat shooting hours earlier claimed the lives of three elite special-operations U.S. Marines.

Compounding the carnage, a rogue Afghan police officer in Nimruz province turned his weapon on fellow Afghan officers Saturday, killing 10 of them, Afghan officials said. The assailant was believed to be a Taliban infiltrator, provincial spokesman Fazel Omer Baloch said.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted August 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Here in the cradle of the Taliban movement, Faizulhaq Mushkani sold his land for $600,000 last year to buy equipment to open a packaging factory in a booming industrial park.

The industrial park—powered by military-run electrical generators—is a pillar of the U.S. strategy against the Afghan insurgency. The arrival of reliable electricity in late 2010 revitalized Kandahar. More than 100 new factories have sprouted.

These days, however, Mr. Mushkani and fellow entrepreneurs are grappling with a fatal flaw in their business plans: They expected the Americans to stick around longer. But, now, with U.S. forces preparing to depart Kandahar next year, the American electricity will disappear, too.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted August 10, 2012 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As he left the meeting, [Richard] Holbrooke pulled out his trump card — a call to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was traveling in Saudi Arabia. The following week, Clinton went to see Obama armed with a list of Holbrooke’s accomplishments. “Mr. President,” she said, “you can fire Richard Holbrooke — over the objection of your secretary of state.” But Jim Jones, Clinton said, could not.

Obama backed down, but Jones didn’t, nor did others at the White House. Instead of capitalizing on Holbrooke’s experience and supporting his push for reconciliation with the Taliban, White House officials dwelled on his shortcomings — his disorganization, his manic intensity, his thirst for the spotlight, his dislike of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his tendency to badger fellow senior officials. At every turn, they sought to marginalize him and diminish his influence.

The infighting exacted a staggering cost: The Obama White House failed to aggressively explore negotiations to end the war when it had the most boots on the battlefield.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted June 25, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On April 12 the Pakistani parliament passed a 14-point resolution in response to the Salala checkpoint attacks. The resolution condemns the attacks, and includes demands for an unconditional apology from the US, an immediate cessation of drone attacks, and a stop to all transport of arms and ammunition through Pakistan.

The foreign policy review process was an attempt by the parliament to regain control over the country's foreign policy, which has historically been set by the country's military. It was passed after several months debate, and under a broad coalition of parties across the political spectrum.

“We need to make sure that we follow the recommendations of the parliament in our negotiations with the US. I am hopeful that we can come to a mutually satisfying agreement,” says Mr. Chaudhury.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted May 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In yet another blow to the Afghan peace process, gunmen assassinated a senior member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council on Sunday morning. The attackers reportedly pulled up next to Maulvi Arsala Rahmani while he was stuck in Kabul’s rush hour traffic and opened fire killing the peace broker.

The murder of Mr. Rahmani comes less than a year after insurgents managed to kill the then head of the High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in his own home using a suicide bomber disguised as a Taliban messenger.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted May 13, 2012 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

NATO airstrikes killed Afghan civilians in two provinces, local officials reported Monday, and at least two dozen others died when floods swept through villages in a third province.

The extent of the alleged civilian casualties from NATO airstrikes in recent days in Badghis and Helmand provinces was not immediately clear. A spokesman for NATO-led troops in Kabul said the coalition was aware of the allegations of civilian casualties in the provinces but had no immediate comment.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

2 Comments
Posted May 7, 2012 at 9:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Taliban attackers Wednesday targeted a heavily fortified, private compound in eastern Afghanistan that is mostly occupied by international workers with a car bomb about two hours after Obama delivered a speech at Bagram Air Base about the pact. Three bystanders were killed besides the four terrorists.

"With this attack, we want to send a message to Obama that the Afghans will welcome you with attacks. You don't need to sign agreements, you need to focus on how to get out of this country," said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted May 3, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a big war, Army Spec. Cherry Maurice believed that one small gesture could make a difference.

Temperatures at her mountain base plunged to 20 degrees below zero in January, and snow covered the ground. Maurice noticed that the eight Afghan workers on the outpost were coming to work in rubber flip-flops. The 35-year-old soldier labored with the men in the outpost’s kitchen, which is not much bigger than a walk-in closet. She dug into her personal savings and spent $135 to buy them eight pairs of boots.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted April 26, 2012 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After months of negotiations, the United States and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement on Sunday that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014.

The agreement, whose text was not released, builds on hard-won new understandings the two countries reached in recent weeks on the thorny issues of detainees and special operations raids to broadly redefine the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States.

“The document finalized today provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world, and is a document for the development of the region,” said Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the Afghan national security adviser, in a statement released by President Hamid Karzai’s office.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted April 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A new revelation of young American soldiers caught on camera while defiling insurgents’ remains in Afghanistan has intensified questions within the military community about whether fundamental discipline is breaking down given the nature and length of the war.

The photographs, published by The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, show more than a dozen soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Fourth Brigade Combat Team, along with some Afghan security forces, posing with the severed hands and legs of Taliban attackers in Zabul Province in 2010. They seemed likely to further bruise an American-Afghan relationship that has been battered by crisis after crisis over the past year, even as the two governments are in the midst of negotiations over a long-term strategic agreement.

The images also add to a troubling list of cases — including Marines videotaped urinating on Taliban bodies, the burning of Korans, and the massacre of villagers attributed to a lone Army sergeant — that have cast American soldiers in the harshest possible light before the Afghan public.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationPsychology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

6 Comments
Posted April 19, 2012 at 6:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just hours after it was revealed that American soldiers had burned Korans seized at an Afghan detention center in late February, Iran secretly ordered its agents operating inside Afghanistan to exploit the anticipated public outrage by trying to instigate violent protests in the capital, Kabul, and across the western part of the country, according to American officials.

For the most part, the efforts by Iranian agents and local surrogates failed to provoke widespread or lasting unrest, the officials said. Yet with NATO governments preparing for the possibility of retaliation by Iran in the event of an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, the issue of Iran’s willingness and ability to foment violence in Afghanistan and elsewhere has taken on added urgency.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanMiddle EastIran

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Posted April 5, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

WILLIAM GALSTON (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution): Good to be back...[on the show]

{KIM] LAWTON: How does what happened in Afghanistan this week affect the moral calculus of how the US proceeds there?

GALSTON: In my judgment, this is a really tough one. On the one hand, as the defense secretary said, in the fog of war terrible things happen. To engage in a war is to commit yourself to a process that you can’t entirely control, and events like this unfortunately are almost inevitable. On the other hand, we are pursuing a kind of forward strategy, having our troops not just in the large bases but also interspersed with civilians in the countryside, and that makes it more likely that events of this sort will happen, but unfortunately the United States and its allies have reached the conclusion that this is the only way to prosecute the war with any chance of success. So now we have to choose between our strategy and the inevitable morally troubling consequences of that strategy.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 19, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An Afghan civilian stole a military pickup truck, rammed through a fence and crashed into a ditch by a runway around the time that a plane carrying Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta landed at an airfield in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, U.S. officials said. Panetta was unharmed and carried on with his visit as planned.

Pentagon officials said they could not immediately confirm that the incident was an attempt to attack Panetta or that it was linked to his visit. They said the driver’s motives are under investigation.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

US President Barack Obama has promised that international forces will not "rush for the exits" in Afghanistan, after an American soldier was accused of murdering 16 civilians.

Mr Obama said foreign troops must be withdrawn in a responsible way.

The killings in Kandahar province have strained relations between Afghans and foreign forces.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An American soldier opened fire on villagers near his base in southern Afghanistan Sunday and killed 16 civilians, according to President Hamid Karzai, who called it an "assassination" and furiously demanded an explanation from Washington. Nine children and three women were among the dead.

The killing spree deepened a crisis between U.S. forces and their Afghan hosts over Americans burning Muslim holy books on a base in Afghanistan last month. The Quran burnings sparked weeks of violent protests and attacks that left some 30 dead. Six U.S. service members have been killed by their Afghan colleagues since the burnings came to light, and the violence had just started to calm down.

"This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven," Karzai said in a statement. He said he has repeatedly demanded the U.S. stop killing Afghan civilians.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted March 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

US troops who burned copies of the Koran at a base in Afghanistan last month should have been aware it would enrage Muslims based on the reaction to previous instances of desecrating Islam's holy book, the head of Afghanistan's independent human rights body says.

Sima Samar, chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said Americans previously have dealt with issues relating to the treatment of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and had seen the furor created by the burning of the Koran at a Florida church last year.

US officials have said that the Korans were confiscated from prisoners at Bagram air base and mistakenly discarded in an incinerator.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted March 8, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

American Christians would be understandably outraged if they learned of Muslims burning the Bible. Muslims have an even greater reverence for their holy book. Omid Safi, who teaches Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina, notes that Muslims look at the Qur'an the way Christians look at Jesus. "In an Islamic universe . . . the word becomes not a person, but a book," he says. "For a Muslim to see the Qur'an burnt . . . it would look and feel like someone burning Jesus, or a crucifix."

Christians should at least understand and respect the way Muslims look at the Qur'an. Most Muslims have a higher regard for the Bible than most Christians have for the Qur'an. It is unlikely that a Muslim would ever burn a Bible.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslam

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Posted March 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Taliban is attempting to capitalize on the outbreak of violence that followed the inadvertent burning of the holy Quran by NATO troops by characterizing the war as a conflict between infidels and Islam, analysts say.

"It's tailor-made to their argument that the United States is trying to desecrate and destroy Islam," said Seth Jones, an analyst at RAND Corp. and author of In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan. "It's patently untrue."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "believe we have achieved significant progress in reversing the Taliban's momentum and in developing the Afghan security forces, and they believe that the fundamentals of our strategy remain sound," said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

In private, other officers and U.S. officials said riots and attacks after U.S. personnel threw copies of the Koran into a trash-burning pit at the Bagram military base have renewed a debate at the highest levels of the Obama administration and are expected to affect internal deliberations on the pace of the drawdown.

"Too many people are asking, 'Why are we still doing this if the guys you're supposed to be helping keep murdering your soldiers?' " said a senior U.S. general....

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted February 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages. The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.

Of course, these facts may not become widely known, because no one is supposed to mention the main significance of what has happened here. First, as usual, Muslims — not al-Qaeda terrorists, but ordinary, mainstream Muslims — are rioting and murdering over the burning (indeed, the inadvertent burning) of a book...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A grenade thrown by Afghan protesters wounded at least six American service members in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said, as new details emerged in the investigation of the shooting death of two American officers within the Interior Ministry building the day before.

Rioting continued across the country on Sunday as anger over the burning of Korans by the American military continued unabated, putting the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States on shaky new ground. At least one Afghan was killed in clashes with the Afghan police.

A few details of the killing within the Interior Ministry were emerging, although many reports offered conflicting views of what had happened. According to three Afghan security officials familiar with the case, the main suspect was Abdul Saboor, who was said to have worked in the ministry for more than a year as a driver. The two American officers who were killed were shot in the head and the pistol used to kill them was equipped with a silencer, the officials said.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted February 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A gunman killed two American military advisers with shots to the back of the head Saturday inside a heavily guarded ministry building, and NATO ordered military workers out of Afghan ministries as protests raged for a fifth day over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. army base.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at the Interior Ministry, saying it was retaliation for the Quran burnings, after the two U.S. servicemen — a lieutenant and colonel and a major — were found dead on their office floor, Afghan and western officials said. The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces recalled all international military personnel from the ministries, an unprecedented action in the decade-long war...[which] highlights [the] growing friction between Afghans and their foreign partners at a critical juncture in the war.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted February 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shakila, 8 at the time, was drifting off to sleep when a group of men carrying AK-47s barged in through the door. She recalls that they complained, as they dragged her off into the darkness, about how their family had been dishonored and about how they had not been paid.

It turns out that Shakila, who was abducted along with her cousin as part of a traditional Afghan form of justice known as “baad,” was the payment.

Although baad (also known as baadi) is illegal under Afghan and, most religious scholars say, Islamic law, the taking of girls as payment for misdeeds committed by their elders still appears to be flourishing. Shakila, because one of her uncles had run away with the wife of a district strongman, was taken and held for about a year. It was the district leader, furious at the dishonor that had been done to him, who sent his men to abduct her.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyPsychologyViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted February 17, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Commander [Layne] McDowell banked and aligned his jet’s nose with the canyon’s northeastern end. Then he followed his wingmen’s lead. He dived, pulled level at 5,000 feet and accelerated down the canyon’s axis at 620 miles per hour, broadcasting his proximity with an extended engine roar.

In the lexicon of close air support, his maneuver was a “show of presence” — a mid-altitude, nonlethal display intended to reassure ground troops and signal to the Taliban that the soldiers were not alone. It reflected a sharp shift in the application of American air power, de-emphasizing overpowering violence in favor of sorties that often end without munitions being dropped.

The use of air power has changed markedly during the long Afghan conflict, reflecting the political costs and sensitivities of civilian casualties caused by errant or indiscriminate strikes and the increasing use of aerial drones, which can watch over potential targets for extended periods with no risk to pilots or more expensive aircraft.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted January 19, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pakistan's civilian government fired its Defense Secretary Wednesday in a rare show of defiance against the country's powerful Army, which had earlier publicly rebuked Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and ignited speculation the government may fall.

Retired Lt. Gen. Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a senior bureaucrat seen as close to the Army, was dismissed by the government for “gross misconduct and illegal action.” He was replaced by a bureaucrat close to the prime minister.

It’s not yet clear whether Pakistan’s powerful Army will be sufficiently moved to launch a coup and directly rule the country as it has done for approximately half of Pakistan’s 65 year history. But if Mr. Gilani's defiance pays off, that could indicate a boost for the country’s democratic institutions.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanIndiaPakistan

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Posted January 12, 2012 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, today called on the international community to chart a new course of action in Afghanistan.

Bishop Stephen said:" It has taken us ten years to learn there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, but we appear no nearer to knowing what a just political settlement might look like, let alone how to achieve it. Next week's international conference in Bonn offers an important opportunity, maybe our last opportunity before the withdrawal of troops in 2014, to chart a new course of action for Afghanistan and the region that is capable of securing a just and lasting peace. I'm encouraged that there is growing international acceptance, not least by our own Government, that this can only be done by including all those with a role in the conflict and representatives of all those with a legitimate interest in securing peace and reconciliation. Securing a sustainable political settlement in Afghanistan is important both for the well being of the Afghan people and for Britain's long term security."

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanEngland / UK

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Posted December 5, 2011 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

US forces are massing on the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan amid reports of an imminent drone missile offensive against fighters from the feared Haqqani Network, a Taliban faction which operates from safe havens in Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency, Pakistan Army sources have confirmed.

The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Afghan insurgents laid waste to government buildings in Kabul last week, the US ambassador explained, perhaps in case we’d misunderstood the 24-hour siege, that “this really is not a very big deal”. A day earlier he’d lamented that “the biggest problem in Kabul is traffic”. Apparently not.

A week on, someone has blown up Afghanistan’s former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in the heart of the capital. This is a big deal. It shatters the idea that our enemies are on the ropes, and pushes the country closer to civil war.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

7 Comments
Posted September 22, 2011 at 5:58 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Alasdair MacIntyre's]...minatory warning was: “The barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.” That was a scary thing to hear from one of the world’s great philosophers. I soon began to hear it from other leading intellectuals also, such as Philip Rieff, Christopher Lasch and Robert Bellah. That is what I heard in the echoes of 9/11: that all great civilisations eventually decline, and when they begin to do so they are vulnerable. That is what Osama bin Laden believed about the West and so did some of the West’s own greatest minds.

If so, then 9/11 belongs to a wider series of phenomena affecting the West: the disintegration of the family, the demise of authority, the build-up of personal debt, the collapse of financial institutions, the downgrading of the American economy, the continuing failure of some European economies, the loss of a sense of honour, loyalty and integrity that has brought once esteemed groups into disrepute, the waning throughout the West of a sense of national identity; even last month’s riots.

These are all signs of the arteriosclerosis of a culture, a civilisation grown old. Whenever Me takes precedence over We, and pleasure today over viability tomorrow, a society is in trouble. If so, then the enemy is not radical Islam, it is us and our by now unsustainable self-indulgence.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

7 Comments
Posted September 8, 2011 at 7:42 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As Afghan army forces constructed a patrol base in a volatile stretch of Helmand province this spring, insurgents turned to one of their most effective weapons against the troops: They told area residents that their new, uniformed neighbors were godless “fake Muslims.”

The battle over Islam has become a crucial front in the war between the Taliban and the country’s growing security forces, prompting the Afghan army to create a strategy for proving that its soldiers are true Muslims.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted September 8, 2011 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan have decreased by 25% as Afghan and coalition forces have degraded insurgent leadership and hammered their morale, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Tuesday.

The latest figures come during the deadliest month ever for Americans in the 10-year war. Sixty-six U.S. servicemembers have been killed this month, a toll that includes the deaths of 30 troops in an Aug. 6 helicopter crash. The previous high was 65 troops killed in July 2010.

Commanders cautioned that violence levels alone are not an effective way to measure progress or failure.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted August 31, 2011 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sensitive Government information about Afghanistan was accidentally revealed by Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell today when he left Downing Street with the documents on show.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanEngland / UK

2 Comments
Posted August 30, 2011 at 9:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Like many Afghans with similar disabilities, [Amina] Azimi fretted over her future, knowing the hardships she would face in a country where the disabled are often discriminated against in schools and the workplace. That is, when they can find a job.

"After it happened I thought I was useless and the rest of my life meaningless," she says, recalling the attack some 15 years ago during the height of the Afghan civil war.

Today, Azimi, 26, has found a purpose: She uses the radio to boost the fortunes of people with disabilities in a country where prejudices against such people are ingrained in the culture and the number of disabled people has grown significantly because of three decades of near-constant conflict.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineMediaPsychology* Economics, PoliticsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

1 Comments
Posted August 4, 2011 at 11:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The assassination of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half brother, a powerful political figure, highlights the vulnerability of the government as U.S. forces begin to withdraw and turn over more responsibility to the Afghans, analysts say.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was shot to death Tuesday by a close associate in his home in Kandahar province, where as head of the provincial council he gave full support to U.S. military operations against the Taliban while refuting allegations he was becoming rich off opium trafficking and gun running.

"Whether or not the Taliban is directly responsible for the assassination it will certainly redound to their benefit," said Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a think tank. "It sends a message to the people of Afghanistan that President Karzai doesn't really have full control of the country."

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

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Posted July 13, 2011 at 11:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The strategic argument for a fast drawdown is premised on the claim that Al Qaeda is already crippled and therefore we have nothing to fear by pulling 10,000 or more troops out of Afghanistan this summer, another 10,000 early next year and 10,000 more by the end of 2012. If White House leaks are to be believed, some senior administration officials concluded that the counterinsurgency campaign launched only last year is a waste of time; all we need to do is rely on targeted air and commando strikes of the kind that have devastated Al Qaeda's senior leadership in Pakistan.

What that argument misses is the extent to which our presence in Afghanistan enables us to project power into Pakistan. It was from Afghanistan, after all, that the Navy SEALs took off to kill Osama bin Laden. If we pull back in Afghanistan, the Taliban will gain ground and the willingness of the Afghan government to provide us the bases we need will decline. That, in turn, will make it markedly more difficult to keep the pressure on Al Qaeda and prevent it from regenerating itself as it has in the past.

Moreover, we shouldn't get overly fixated on Al Qaeda....

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted June 22, 2011 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The troops here at Honaker Miracle have received a regular barrage of attacks, more than a dozen in less than two months, some lasting several hours.

During one attack, a mortar round hit a crane used to tow disabled armored vehicles and set it ablaze, reducing the vital piece of equipment to a charred hulk.

"They tested us during the first part of the deployment, a lot in May," said Kalaher from his office where an all-white Taliban flag, removed from a nearby mountainside, hangs from the ceiling. "We set a precedent that we are not afraid to shoot back."

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

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Posted June 22, 2011 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After a year in Afghanistan, members of the unit will head home with their memories. Spc. Jenny Martinez’s voice grew soft as she recounted treating a Marine who stepped on an explosive and lost both of his legs.

She held his hand all the way to the field hospital.

“He didn’t want to let me go,” said Martinez, 24, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. But “I had to leave because we had another mission.”

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

1 Comments
Posted June 17, 2011 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Faced with a decision on how quickly to draw down troops, President Obama spoke by videoconference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday as his nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan cautioned against walking away from its 10-year-old war.

The U.S. must "ensure that the country doesn't degenerate into a safe haven for al-Qaeda," Ryan Crocker told skeptical lawmakers at his Senate confirmation hearing.

The White House, meanwhile, challenged the findings of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee probe of U.S. aid in Afghanistan. The panel's Democrats issued a report saying that nearly $19 billion in aid over a decade has generated waste and corruption and been of limited success.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted June 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan offered an unvarnished assessment on Wednesday of the nearly decade-old war, but he told a skeptical Senate committee that the United States could not afford to walk away anytime soon.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ryan C. Crocker, the nominee, said that the United States had abandoned Afghanistan once before, after its war with the Soviet Union in 1989, with “disastrous consequences” — the rise of the Taliban. “We cannot afford to do so again,” Mr. Crocker said.

Mr. Crocker nonetheless acknowledged a panoply of problems facing Afghanistan, including government corruption that he said would become “a second insurgency” if left unchecked. He said the United States’s goal in Afghanistan was merely to help the Afghans create a “good-enough government,” not necessarily a model democracy. While progress has been hard, he said, the situation was not hopeless.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

3 Comments
Posted June 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The hugely expensive U.S. attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan has had only limited success and may not survive an American withdrawal, according to the findings of a two-year congressional investigation to be released Wednesday.

The report calls on the administration to rethink urgently its assistance programs as President Obama prepares to begin drawing down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this summer.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted June 8, 2011 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Herewith the BBC description of this section:
After 24 people died following two days of protests in Afghanistan in the wake of the burning of a copy of the Koran by a fundamentalist Christian church in Florida, William talks to Joel C Hunter, a pastor in Florida and a leader within the National Association of Evangelicals, to ask him how he reacted to the news that a pastor had burned a Koran.

William also reflects on the violence in Afghanistan which resulted from the Koran burning with the former bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, and he is joined by historian and analyst Professor Iftikhar Malik from Bath Spa University, to discuss what role the Taliban is thought to have played in these events.
Listen to it all (starts about 28:30 in and last about 15 1/2 minutes).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: There’s a pariah state someplace known for brutalizing its people and destabilizing its region. As cracks start to appear, the West turns up the heat in favor of regime change. Fairly quickly, talk of negotiations, sanctions, and international pressure gives way to armed force.

Western leaders try to sell the conflict as a moral cause, so people naturally wonder what the Vatican makes of it. Signals at first seem ambivalent, but before long the Vatican becomes steadily more skeptical. While they never quite directly condemn the action, the take-away is that they’re not on board.

That, of course, was the trajectory in 1999, when NATO bombed Serbia; in 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began; and to some extent in 2003, when a U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq, although Vatican opposition in that case was more clear from the outset. The pattern may now be repeating itself with regard to Libya.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryIraq WarWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAfricaLibyaAsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 4, 2011 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The American strategy for handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan government rests on a similar strategy: putting local militias on the government payroll. Such “recruits” are supposed to be vetted. But in the months it will take to complete that process, American commanders are counting on ragtag militias like Rozeboi’s to fight the Taliban.

Many of the militias are controlled by strongmen who traffic in drugs and weapons and pay their soldiers by taxing the locals, as the Taliban do. Indeed, several militias in Kunduz fought alongside the Taliban before switching to the government’s side.

Can the Karzai government provide the food, clothing and salaries needed to keep those militias friendly? “If they do not have income, they will return to their old bosses,” the mayor of Imam Sahib, Sufi Manaan, warned American officers in February. He should know. Some American commanders believe that he has links to a militia that fought against their soldiers last fall.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

0 Comments
Posted March 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the American-led fight against the Taliban was once a contest for influence in well-known and conventionally defined areas — the capital and large cities, main roads, the border with Pakistan, and a handful of prominent valleys and towns — today it has become something else.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the United States military has settled into a campaign for scattered villages and bits of terrain that few people beyond their immediate environs have heard of.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

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Posted March 10, 2011 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama today awarded the United States' highest civilian honor to Dr. Tom Little, a Christian worker for the International Assistance Mission (IAM) who was murdered in Afghanistan last August.

"Tom Little could have pursued a lucrative career," President Obama said during the ceremony for Little and 14 other recipients. "Instead, he was guided by his faith, and he set out to heal the poorest of the poor in Afghanistan. For 30 years, amid invasion and civil war, the terror of the Taliban, the spread of insurgency, he and his wife Libby helped bring Afghans—literally—the miracle of sight."

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeMissionsParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

1 Comments
Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The seemingly contradictory messages, in communiques and agreements to be released at NATO's upcoming summit in Lisbon, are intended to reassure U.S. and European audiences that the process of ending the war has begun.

At the same time, the coalition wants to signal to the Taliban - along with Afghans and regional partners who fear a coalition withdrawal, and Republicans in Congress who oppose it - that they are not leaving anytime soon.

"We have to assemble a coherent narrative . . . that everyone buys into," said a senior administration official, one of several who discussed ongoing alliance negotiations on the condition of anonymity.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistanEurope

1 Comments
Posted November 15, 2010 at 6:17 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Three years ago, the Taliban's control over this district, Chak, and the 112,000 Pashtun farmers who live here, was restricted to the hours of darkness – although the local commander, Abdullah, vowed to me that he would soon be in full control. As I am quickly to discover, this was no idle boast. In Chak, the Karzai government has in effect given up and handed over to the Taliban. Abdullah, still in charge, even collects taxes. His men issue receipts using stolen government stationery that is headed "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan"; with commendable parsimony they simply cross out the word "Republic" and insert "Emirate", the emir in question being the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.

The most astonishing thing about this rebel district – and for Nato leaders meeting in Lisbon this week, a deeply troubling one – is that Chak is not in war-torn Helmand or Kandahar but in Wardak province, a scant 40 miles south-west of Kabul. Nato commanders have repeatedly claimed that the Taliban are on the back foot following this year's US troop surge. Mid-level insurgency commanders, they say, have been removed from the battlefield in "industrial" quantities since the 2010 campaign began. And yet Abdullah, operating within Katyusha rocket range of the capital – and with a $500,000 bounty on his head – has managed to evade coalition forces for almost four years. If Chak is in any way typical of developments in other rural districts – and Afghanistan has hundreds of isolated valley communities just like this one – then Nato's military strategy could be in serious difficulty.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

0 Comments
Posted November 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even the poorest families in Afghanistan have matches and cooking fuel. The combination usually sustains life. But it also can be the makings of a horrifying escape: from poverty, from forced marriages, from the abuse and despondency that can be the fate of Afghan women.

The night before she burned herself, Gul Zada took her children to her sister’s for a family party. All seemed well. Later it emerged that she had not brought a present, and a relative had chided her for it, said her son Juma Gul.

This small thing apparently broke her. Ms. Zada, who was 45, the mother of six children and who earned pitiably little cleaning houses, ended up with burns on nearly 60 percent of her body at the Herat burn hospital. Survival is difficult even at 40 percent.

“She was burned from head to toe,” her son remembers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

1 Comments
Posted November 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although the announcement of the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections planned for Sunday were postponed, interviews with Afghan and western officials indicate that fraud was pervasive and that nearly 25 percent of the votes will be thrown out.

The fraud, which included ballot-box stuffing, citizens forced to cast their votes at gunpoint, corrupt election officials and security forces complicit with corrupt candidates, is expected to mean that 800,000 to a million votes will be nullified, according to two western officials who are following the election closely. The Afghan Independent Election Commission, which oversees the election, has refused to disclose the number of votes that could be thrown out but said in a statement that it had decided to nullify wholly or partially the votes cast at 430 polling centers and that votes at another 830 sites were being audited, suggesting substantial problems.

Until now the commission has been praised for endeavoring to run an honest vote-counting process, but the delay at the last minute, as hundreds of candidates have thronged to Kabul clamoring to know the results.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

0 Comments
Posted October 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Members of Pakistan's spy agency are pressing Taliban field commanders to fight the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, some U.S. officials and Afghan militants say, a development that undercuts a key element of the Pentagon's strategy for ending the war.

The explosive accusation is the strongest yet in a series of U.S. criticisms of Pakistan, and shows a deteriorating relationship with an essential ally in the Afghan campaign. The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in military and development aid to Pakistan for its support.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have sought to persuade midlevel Taliban commanders to lay down their weapons in exchange for jobs or cash. The most recent Afghan effort at starting a peace process took place this week in Kabul.

But few Taliban have given up the fight, officials say....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsTerrorismWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

2 Comments
Posted October 7, 2010 at 6:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Federal prosecutors in New York have opened a criminal probe of one of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brothers, raising the stakes in Washington's sometimes-contentious dealings with the Karzai government.

U.S. officials said Mahmood Karzai has become a focus in a corruption probe handled by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, an office that has a history of charging, extraditing and trying suspects in far-flung parts of the world, including Afghanistan.

ny move to indict Mahmood Karzai, who is a U.S. citizen, carries huge risks for American officials, whose anticorruption efforts have often provoked sharp backlashes from President Karzai.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Throughout this volume, the Obama administration is depicted as deeply divided and riven with suspicions: the president feeling boxed in by the Pentagon, members of the military battling the White House and one another. In addition to the well-known putdowns of the president’s national security team by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the commander of forces in Afghanistan (which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine and led to his firing last June), and the much-chronicled tensions between senior military officers and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Mr. Woodward recounts a cornucopia of conflicts and adversarial agendas — and much pettiness, in-fighting and score-settling that stand in awful contrast to the sobering realities of a nearly nine-year-old war that has already claimed more than 1,000 American lives.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s former campaign strategist Mark Penn is described as urging her to take the job of secretary of state because, in Mr. Woodward’s words, “if she did the job for four years, Obama might be in trouble and have to dump Biden and pick her to run with him as vice president.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is described as trying to withhold a “hybrid option” — requiring a fewer number of troops — from consideration, and even knocking heads with Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of the United States Central Command, over a memo about prospects in Afghanistan.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooks* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

0 Comments
Posted September 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"If you just rely on the military—we've seen the result," explains Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, the senior presidential adviser for peace and reconciliation. "There is no purely military solution in Afghanistan."

American military commanders say they back Mr. Karzai's effort to court members of the Taliban, comparing it to the successful strategy in Iraq to win over Sunni Arab insurgents.

But key leaders of Afghanistan's three largest ethnic minorities told The Wall Street Journal that they oppose Mr. Karzai's outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group's return to power and reignite civil war.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorismWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

0 Comments
Posted September 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq ranks fourth in the Middle East on the Index of Political Freedom from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit — behind Israel, Lebanon and Morocco, but ahead of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia. Nearly two-thirds of Iraqis say they want a democracy, while only 19 percent want an Islamic state.

In short, there has been substantial progress on the things development efforts can touch most directly: economic growth, basic security, and political and legal institutions. After the disaster of the first few years, nation building, much derided, has been a success. When President Obama speaks to the country on Iraq, he’ll be able to point to a large national project that has contributed to measurable, positive results.

Of course, to be honest, he’ll also have to say how fragile and incomplete this success is. Iraqi material conditions are better, but the Iraqi mind has not caught up with the Iraqi opportunity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanMiddle EastIraq

5 Comments
Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:51 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Obama administration has turned to the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Afghanistan to troubleshoot Washington's precarious relationship with President Hamid Karzai, propelling the undercover officer into a critical role normally reserved for diplomats and military chiefs.

The station chief has become a pivotal behind-the-scenes power broker in Kabul, according to U.S. officials as well as current and former diplomats and military figures. In April, when Mr. Karzai lashed out against his Western partners, it was the station chief who was tapped by the White House to calm the Afghan president.

The station chief's position became more crucial following the June firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, perhaps the only other senior American who had a close relationship with Mr. Karzai, U.S. officials say.

The unusual diplomatic channel is in part a measure of how fragile U.S. relations with the mercurial Afghan president are.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

0 Comments
Posted August 24, 2010 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Here is one:

We have nothing to gain by continuing to wage war in Afghanistan. We are keeping that poor country in turmoil, killing innocent people and spending money that could be used to create jobs. We have had no success in nine years, and we can expect no success in nine more. We are wasting soldiers' lives. We should bring our troops home now.

Joel Welty

Blanchard, Mich.

Read them all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

11 Comments
Posted August 20, 2010 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says the US will definitely start reducing the number of its soldiers in Afghanistan next July.

On Sunday, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said that he might advise President Barack Obama to delay the exit plan.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

1 Comments
Posted August 16, 2010 at 7:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces here, began his campaign Sunday to convince an increasingly skeptical public that the American-led coalition can still succeed, saying he had not come to Afghanistan to preside over a “graceful exit.”

In interviews with The New York Times, The Washington Post and “Meet the Press,” General Petraeus said American and NATO troops were making progress on a number of Afghan fronts, including routing Taliban insurgents from their sanctuaries, reforming the Afghan government and preparing Afghan soldiers to fight on their own.

General Petraeus, who took over last month after Gen. Stanley McChrystal was fired by President Obama, said he believed he would be given the time and material necessary to prevail here. He expressed that confidence despite the fact that nearly every phase of the war is going badly — and despite the fact that the American public has turned against it.

“The president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit,” the general said from his office at NATO headquarters in downtown Kabul. “My marching orders are to do all that is humanly possible to help us achieve our objectives.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanPakistan

1 Comments
Posted August 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Worsening insurgent violence in many parts of the country is raising concern about Afghanistan’s ability to hold a fair parliamentary election in little more than a month, a crucial test of President Hamid Karzai’s ability to deliver security and a legitimate government.

After last year’s troubled presidential election, both the government and its foreign supporters are under intense pressure to hold a credible vote for Parliament, scheduled for Sept. 18. Last time, insecurity, inadequate monitoring and rampant fraud led to a drawn-out dispute that soured relations between Mr. Karzai and his Western backers so badly that they have yet to recover the trust lost on both sides.

As American commanders look toward a deadline to begin withdrawing troops next year, they would like the election to show that the government is capable of standing on its own. But already Western diplomats and observers are lowering expectations for the election, while Afghans are increasingly disillusioned and fatalistic about the prospects for democracy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

0 Comments
Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year, the need for an exit strategy weighs on the minds of U.S. policymakers. Such an outcome, it is assumed, would involve reconciliation with the Taliban. But Afghan women fear that in the quest for a quick peace, their progress may be sidelined. "Women's rights must not be the sacrifice by which peace is achieved," says parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi.

Yet that may be where negotiations are heading. The Taliban will be advocating a version of an Afghan state in line with their own conservative views, particularly on the issue of women's rights. Already there is a growing acceptance that some concessions to the Taliban are inevitable if there is to be genuine reconciliation. "You have to be realistic," says a diplomat in Kabul. "We are not going to be sending troops and spending money forever. There will have to be a compromise, and sacrifices will have to be made."

For Afghanistan's women, an early withdrawal of international forces could be disastrous.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2007238,00.html#ixzz0vRrVD1LS


Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchWomen* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

2 Comments
Posted August 2, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the frantic last hours of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s command in Afghanistan, when the world wondered what was racing through the general’s mind, he reached out to an unlikely corner of his life: the author of the book “Three Cups of Tea,” Greg Mortenson.

“Will move through this and if I’m not involved in the years ahead, will take tremendous comfort in knowing people like you are helping Afghans build a future,” General McChrystal wrote to Mr. Mortenson in an e-mail message, as he traveled from Kabul to Washington. The note landed in Mr. Mortenson’s inbox shortly after 1 a.m. Eastern time on June 23. Nine hours later, the general walked into the Oval Office to be fired by President Obama.

The e-mail message was in response to a note of support from Mr. Mortenson. It reflected his broad and deepening relationship with the United States military, whose leaders have increasingly turned to Mr. Mortenson, once a shaggy mountaineer, to help translate the theory of counterinsurgency into tribal realities on the ground.

Read the whole thing.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

0 Comments
Posted July 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In late 2008, shortly after he had helped pull Iraq back from the brink of catastrophe, Gen. David H. Petraeus prepared to turn to that other American war.

“I’ve always said that Afghanistan would be the tougher fight,” General Petraeus said at the time.

Now the burden falls to him, at perhaps the decisive moment in President Obama’s campaign to reverse the deteriorating situation on the ground here and regain the momentum in this nine-year-old war. In many ways, General Petraeus is being summoned to Afghanistan at a moment similar to the one he faced three years ago in Iraq, when the situation seemed hopeless to a growing number of Americans and their elected representatives as well.

But there is a crucial difference: In Iraq, General Petraeus was called in to reverse a failed strategy put in place by previous commanders. In Afghanistan, General Petraeus was instrumental in developing and executing the strategy in partnership with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who carried it out on the ground. Now General Petraeus will be directly responsible for its success or failure, risking the reputation he built in Iraq.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanPakistan

1 Comments
Posted June 24, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow of the Hudson Institute who has been embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan six times, says there have been successes at the local and even provincial levels "but nothing that has lasted even a year." And the election fraud last August that secured Karzai another five-year term was symptomatic: His "government has become more egregiously corrupt and incompetent in the last three or four years." Last month Marlowe reported: "The Pentagon's map of Afghanistan's 80 most key districts shows only five 'sympathetic' to the Afghan government -- and none supporting it." She suggests that Karzai might believe that President Obama's announced intention to begin withdrawing U.S. troops next summer "is a bluff." Those Americans who say that Afghanistan is a test of America's "staying power" are saying that we must stay there because we are there. This is steady work, but it treats perseverance as a virtue regardless of context or consequences and makes futility into a reason for persevering.

Obama has counted on his 2011 run-up to reelection being smoothed by three developments in 2010 -- the health-care legislation becoming popular after enactment, job creation accelerating briskly and Afghanistan conditions improving significantly. The first two are not happening. He can decisively influence only the third, and only by adhering to his timetable for disentangling U.S. forces from this misadventure.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan

0 Comments
Posted June 22, 2010 at 12:03 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The recent Labor cabinet decision to suspend the processing of new asylum applications from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan for three and six months respectively has prompted the Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall to write to the Federal Labor government.

Dr Aspinall, the Archbishop of Brisbane, questioned how such a decision could be made when the United Nations Refugee Agency, which has been conducting a review, had not yet reported its findings. The UN, at this time, did not support a suspension of applications from those countries.

"The Australian Government says asylum seekers should only be granted the right to live in Australia if they are genuinely in need of protection," he said. "I agree that this is a complex issue, but genuine asylum seekers are deeply distressed when forced to flee their homeland. They should be treated with compassion and dignity."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanSri LankaAustralia / NZ

0 Comments
Posted June 2, 2010 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Afghanistan's much-delayed peace jirga, or assembly, gets under way in Kabul on Wednesday. Under a large tent at Kabul Polytechnic University, 1,600 delegates — one-fifth of them women — will try to come up with ways to persuade the Taliban and other insurgents to lay down their weapons and reconcile with their countrymen.

But many war-weary Afghans aren't optimistic the conference will produce meaningful results.

The highly touted peace jirga seems anything but organized. On Tuesday the event's planners were still trying to come up with a schedule, and hundreds of delegates had yet to arrive.

And Afghan President Hamid Karzai has not laid out exactly how he plans to reconcile with insurgents.

Read or listen to it all.



Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

0 Comments
Posted June 2, 2010 at 12:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A suicide car bomb that targeted a Nato convoy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has killed at least 19 people, including six foreign troops.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the rush hour attack in the west of the city, where parliament and other government buildings are located.

More than 50 people - mostly Afghan civilians - were hurt in the explosion.

It is the deadliest attack on foreign forces in the heavily-guarded capital since a Taliban assault last September.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2010 at 6:47 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[The New York Times]... carried a very troubling article on the front page on Monday. It detailed how President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan had invited Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Kabul — in order to stick a thumb in the eye of the Obama administration — after the White House had rescinded an invitation to Mr. Karzai to come to Washington because the Afghan president had gutted an independent panel that had discovered widespread fraud in his re-election last year.

The article, written by two of our best reporters, Dexter Filkins and Mark Landler, noted that “according to Afghan associates, Mr. Karzai recently told lunch guests at the presidential palace that he believes the Americans are in Afghanistan because they want to dominate his country and the region, and that they pose an obstacle to striking a peace deal with the Taliban.”

The article added about Karzai: “ ‘He has developed a complete theory of American power,’ said an Afghan who attended the lunch and who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. ‘He believes that America is trying to dominate the region, and that he is the only one who can stand up to them.’ ”

That is what we’re getting for risking thousands of U.S. soldiers and having spent $200 billion already. This news is a flashing red light, warning that the Obama team is violating at least three cardinal rules of Middle East diplomacy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanMiddle East

0 Comments
Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Despite Barack Obama's face featuring prominently on the evening bulletins on the various televisions positioned around one of central Kabul's large and grimy restaurants, tonight few of the diners were taking any notice of the news that an extra 30,000 US troops would be arriving in Afghanistan soon.

"It is just a political decision taken by the Americans, it has nothing to do with us," said one customer.

Those watching were sceptical about the chances of the surge bringing peace. "Wherever the foreign forces go they are attacked and it is the civilians who always get killed," said Mohamad Ashraf, an economics graduate, as he tucked into a dinner of fried mutton.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

7 Comments
Posted December 2, 2009 at 6:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, a Senate report says.

The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden's escape laid the foundation for today's reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.

Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John Kerry, as President Barack Obama prepares to boost U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMilitary / Armed Forces* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident George BushTerrorismWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

3 Comments
Posted November 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As Mr. Obama nears the end of his review of American strategy in Afghanistan, the issue of how he will prod, cajole or bully Mr. Karzai into taking action on matters he has avoided for the past five years has been catapulted to the center of the discussion.

Administration officials and America’s European allies say that rampant corruption and the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan have fueled the resurgence of the Taliban, and that unless Mr. Karzai moves forcefully to tackle those issues, no amount of additional American troops will be able to turn the country around.

Yet many of Mr. Obama’s advisers said they had seen no evidence that Mr. Karzai would follow through on promises to crack down on corruption or the drug trade. Mr. Obama, who met with his advisers again on Wednesday, is said to be particularly skeptical of Mr. Karzai’s resolve.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

1 Comments
Posted November 12, 2009 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The killing of five British soldiers in Afghanistan by a police officer has raised questions over security progress in the country. The British army has been training Afghan security and police forces to enforce the rule of law for the long-term future of the country. Mark Grant-Jones, padre with 2 Rifles Battle Group, and Mark Christian a padre serving with British soldiers in Helmand, comment on the implications of the killings on the British cause in Afghanistan, and Afghan journalist Nadene Ghouri discusses the Afghan reaction to the incident.

Go here and scroll down to the 8:10 segment and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistanEngland / UK

0 Comments
Posted November 6, 2009 at 6:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While visiting Afghanistan in July, I met a U.S. diplomat in Helmand Province who told me this story: He had served in Anbar, in Iraq, and one day a Marine officer came to him, after carrying a wounded buddy off the battlefield on his back, and said to him, “The policy had better match the sacrifice.”

In Iraq, for way too long, our policy did not match the sacrifice of our soldiers. It was badly planned and under-resourced. Before we proceed with this new strategy in Afghanistan we have to give our generals a chance to make their case, we also have to insist that Congress debate it anew, hear other experts, and, if Congress decides to go ahead, to formally authorize it. Like Iraq, it would involve a long struggle, and we can’t ask our soldiers to start something we have no stomach to finish.

In short, President Obama has to be as committed to any surge in Afghanistan as President Bush was in Iraq, because Mr. Obama will have to endure a lot of bad news before things — might — get better.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told an American Legion convention about Afghanistan: “Let’s take a good hard look at this fight we’re in, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I’d rather see us as a nation argue about the war, struggling to get it right, than ignore it. Because each time I go to Dover to see the return of someone’s father, brother, mother, or sister, I want to know that collectively we’ve done all we can to make sure that sacrifice isn’t in vain.”

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

8 Comments
Posted September 13, 2009 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is exactly what the Taliban want, to split off our allies and create a sense of desperation among those willing to stay. The Canadians are also getting hit hard. And the Brits as well. By picking off our allies, and undermining the domestic support crucial to supporting the war effort, our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are trying to isolate the U.S. so that they can eventually force us to leave.

Is this war winnable? I don’t know, but my gut instinct is that Afghanistan/Pakistan will devolve into something worse than Iraq ever was.

Afghanistan is considered “The Good War” only by people who don’t realize (or refuse to acknowledge) how difficult the situation is. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And that seems to be the road we’re on in Afghanistan.

But for the moment, let’s forget geopolitics, and remember the soldiers who gave their lives not just for their country, or Afghanistan, but also for us.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed Forces* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan

1 Comments
Posted October 14, 2008 at 6:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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