Where it may have begun —
How it may have been sustained —
Where it may have ended this day —
Related on BackChannels
Where it may have begun —
How it may have been sustained —
Where it may have ended this day —
Toward the end, a hideous accident:
At least 40 civilians attending a wedding party were killed in a raid conducted by Afghan government forces and supported by US airstrikes on a Taliban hideout in southern Helmand province, Afghan officials said Monday.
Abdul Majed Akhund, deputy provincial councilman, said that the majority of the dead were women and children. Twelve civilians were also injured.DW. “Dozens killed as US-backed strike hits Afghan wedding.” September 25, 2019.
The Modern West has had little issue investigating and owning up to its own woeful atrocities, including the accidents it may sanitize with the term “collateral damage”.
In fact, it or the liberal democratic populations represented by EU/NATO and assorted coalitions of the willing, may be too good at wearing the mea culpa shawl of self-shaming, but that’s another matter.
For Afghanistan, and for the most part, the damage done has been much less accomplished by the “collateral damage” of the west than by the deliberate design, decision, and application of violence by the Taliban and similar actors bent on the absolute and comprehensive political and social control of targeted states and their resources.
Using Russian-supplied arms and material, Afghanistan’s Taliban have continued a program of bombings and related attacks designed to destroy Afghani civilians without discrimination, forestall peace, discourage and impede elections, and bring general ruin to local economies and lives while proving themselves handsome, protective, strong, and wise.
. . . .
True: a malign narcissism has a great deal to do with the absolute political and social control sought by the Taliban and so many others who at times conflate themselves with God and the work of God’s will on earth.
As has taken place as part of doctrine in Syria — impossible to deny — not even hospitals are sacred as sanctuaries of the ill and injured.
The Taliban’s demonstrated and backfiring track record in lunacy — and that of other extremist organizations operating in Afghanistan — may finally be reaching them through the mirroring World Wide Web where high-integrity reportage faithfully conveys the character of consistently cruel, crude, and very nearly mindless violence that will in the end have changed nothing but perhaps themselves.
Most who have followed the Afghanistan story in its greater context will recall the story in which Mullah Omar took revenge on a Russian tank crew and its commander — hung from his own tank barrel — for the rape of local village girls. Omar would flee that heroic ending to raise an army to battle back the Soviet invasion of the state — and America’s CIA would step in with the delivery of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles to the Mujaheddin for the comparatively cheap killing of the Soviet’s brutal and expensive helicopter gunships.
The Red Army — as has the Russian Army elsewhere and more recently — brutalized Afghanistan.
In cinema (and released before the Soviet was finished) —
As Soviet Russia’s army retreated from Afghanistan, America’s intervention may have been drawn back as well. Afghanistan had been returned to native power.
Ah, but there was that other theme: Islam.
Arab culture, fortune, and power — and two Sunni extremists.
Ayman al-Zawahiri may be read about here:
Osama bin Laden — here:
One may tire — and perhaps should — of the medieval contests between too many “kingdoms of heaven” and the repeated conflations — Christian, Jewish, or Muslim — of men with God (although Judaism has been always adamant about the separation of the Divine from the mortal).
In any case, among my acquaintance, one stands out as expert on “civilizational narcissism” — his term — and the Taliban. Here is his book from 2010 —
It may be said that all were warned but with one element missing: Soviet / post-Soviet Moscow / Moscow-Tehran.
The Soviet / post-Soviet Arc of Tears (Crimea, Syria, Yemen, for a start) hews to and encourages the despotism (“political absolutism”) so far expressed by the Taliban in Afghanistan but also well on display elsewhere in the world where the deepest and most criminal representatives of civilizational and political narcissism have either set themselves or prevailed.
BackChannels suggests the Taliban may have been taken in — duped — by Russia via al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden in the shadow of the Cold War and reshaped for revenge on the west with the intent of sustaining a blind and madding authoritarianism in the world, all the better to plunder it.
President Donald Trump says the U.S.-Taliban talks on ending the fighting in Afghanistan are “dead,” deeply unfortunate wording for the Afghan civilians who have been killed by the tens of thousands over almost 18 years. Many fear his cancellation of negotiations will bring more carnage as the U.S. and Taliban, as well as Afghan forces, step up their offensives and everyday people die in the crossfire.
“We just want to go back to our homes. We don’t ask for much, but this war has made our lives impossible and has torn apart our community.” he says. “We cant go home due to the risk of drones, but after so many years of war, our community is now at war with itself – there doesn’t seem to be any end to bloodshed.”
One could argue that the Taliban is increasingly in a position to outlast the United States and claim a decisive military victory. If today’s Taliban were as cohesive as the Taliban that managed to control Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, that might well be true. But it’s not.
Today’s Taliban includes a variety of factions, such as the prominent Quetta Shura and Pakistani-supported Haqqani network. Beyond these internal divisions lie further divisions among the broader Afghan insurgency, which includes the emerging Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K). Our research in the Journal of Global Security Studies argues that powerful insurgent factions may seek peace to forestall their own decline when rival insurgent factions are increasing in power.
This weekend, Afghanistan will hold its fourth presidential election since the Taliban government’s fall in 2001. Since the U.S. and Taliban’s recent breakdown in negotiations, the Taliban have killed more Afghan civilians than at almost any other point since the beginning of 2018, as you can see in the figure below. The Taliban has killed at least 58 civilians in the last eight days alone.
And that may be about to get worse. In earlier presidential elections, the Taliban has tried not to kill civilians when they go to vote. That may change this weekend.
The U.S. envoy’s team would not elaborate Friday on the nature of the resumed discussions in Doha, but they come after a series of deadly Taliban attacks across Afghanistan. As CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports, while the Taliban may be talking peace with the U.S., they’re still waging a brutal war on Afghan soil.
A security camera captured dramatic video of a car bomb attack in Kabul on Thursday. The blast near the U.S. Embassy killed one American service member and another NATO soldier, as well as at least 10 civilians.
KABUL — Iran and Russia have stepped up challenges to U.S. power in Afghanistan, American and Afghan officials say, seizing on the uncertainty of future U.S. policy to expand ties with the Taliban and weaken the country’s Western-backed government.
The moves come as tensions have flared between the United States, Iran and Russia over the conflict in Syria, and officials worry that the fallout could hurt Afghanistan’s chances for peace. For years, Iran and Russia have pushed for a U.S. withdrawal.
I am tired of the people, the area, the district and the province. When I go to Wardak, I feel so tired. But what to do? I have to go there and visit their graves. It is not only one person — it is 12 family members. My four daughters, three sons, my wife, and four cousins. I lost all in one day when my house was bombed by the Americans.
I can never forgive the Taliban, but if the peace deal can stop the bloodshed, I can accept them to the country. I don’t want other families to go through what I have.
“Yes, we have reached an agreement in principle,” Khalilzad said, according to TOLOnews. “Of course, it is not final until the US president (Donald Trump) agrees on it. So, at the moment, we are at that stage.”
News of the agreement comes as violence has spiked in Afghanistan, with the latest attack occurring just hours after Khalilzad’s interview. A car bomb targeted an Afghan police station in the capital Kabul on Monday, in an area close to the heavily fortified compound where many foreign embassies and international organizations are based,
“He became known for his ability to weave through warring tribal factions and his ability to quickly get senior Afghan officials on the phone or to summon them to his office, including President Hamid Karzai,” The New York Times reported during Khalilzad’s stint as ambassador to Afghanistan — the country of his birth — from 2003 to 2005.
Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asia, says Khalilzad’s appointment is a sign that the Trump administration is getting serious about a political solution to America’s longest war.
The U.S. soldier who died Thursday in Afghanistan from wounds in a bomb blast was a compassionate leader whose troops say he always encouraged people who are struggling to ask for help.
Now those soldiers are grappling with the loss of Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, who left behind a wife, two sons and a daughter.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation, is on the verge of an agreement with the Taliban that would pave the way for the withdrawal of some 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees that the war-wracked nation would not be used as a haven for international terrorism, according to diplomatic sources.
KABUL, Afghanistan — At first, the man was just walking across the street. Then he was running for his life. He managed four steps before the blast from the car bomb caught him.
Since then, the last few seconds of Akbar Fazelyar’s life, captured on video during a Taliban attack on Sept. 5, have become one of the most scrutinized moments in Afghanistan, slowed down and watched frame by frame on countless mobile phones and computer screens.
The vote, the fourth since the Taliban’s removal from power by a United States-led coalition in 2001, comes as heavy fighting between the armed group and government forces has led to a spike in the number of civilians killed.
The Taliban has already threatened to target election rallies and polling stations, while in recent weeks the US-backed Afghan forces have stepped up air and ground attacks, raising fears of further casualties.
Last week alone, more than 150 people were killed, according to Al Jazeera tally, in Taliban attacks, US drone strikes and raids by Afghan government forces.
The air strike was aimed at destroying a hideout used by Islamic State militants, but it accidentally targeted farmers near a field, Afghan officials were quoted as saying.
“On yet another deadly day in Afghanistan, once again it is civilians who bear the brunt of the violence involving armed groups, the Afghan government, and their backers in the U.S. military,” Amnesty International said in statement.
Our principal failure, in my view, was our refusal to deal with Pakistan’s double game. Even the accelerated drone attacks in western Pakistan under the Obama administration, which were somewhat effective in the fight against al Qaeda, failed to a large extent to target the Taliban, the Haqqani Group, or Hezbe Islami.
The United States also signaled a lack of military resolve. The Pentagon made incautious public statements about the reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. At one point, the combat power of the United States dropped to a single brigade, even as the insurgent threat was rising. The evident lack of U.S. commitment gave Pakistan a green light to step up the Taliban and insurgent offensive in late 2005 and early 2006.
Stecklow, Steve, Babak Dehghampisheh, and Yeganeh Torbati. “Assets of the Ayatollah: The economic empire behind Iran’s supreme leaders (“Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures”). Reuters Investigates, November 11, 2013.
The militants had taken hospital patients as hostages, officials said, while electricity and most telephone services were cut and residents were sheltering in their houses.
The “large scale” attack was “progressing smoothly,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed in a series of posts on Twitter.
On 17 September 2019, two suicide bombings killed over 48 people in Charikar and Kabul, Afghanistan. The first attack occurred at a rally for presidentAshraf Ghani which killed over 26 and wounded over 42. Ghani was unharmed in the incident. The second bombing occurred in Kabul near the US embassy. In this incident 22 were killed and another 38 were injured in the explosion. Children and women are among the dead and wounded in both attacks, also multiple soldiers were killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, and said they will commit more attacks to discourage people from voting in the upcoming presidential elections.
Wikipedia. “Zalmay Khalilzad” (U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation).
As told to BackChannels —
Tirah Valley, Khyber Agency, Pakistan, Around 2013-2015 — The operation had started against so-called militants in the valley. The army had only a little bit earlier ordered a general evacuation in advance of the fighting, so all who were not Taliban were still leaving their animals, businesses, and homes in a hurry.
The Taliban were there and would stay to fight the army.
I don’t know how many Taliban or army soldiers died in that fight, but there was an old man above 70, older than usual for the region, who told me that most were strong enough to cross the mountain but due to having less energy or power, he had thought he might be unable to cross the mountains with his daughter who could not walk. Still, he would try. He would carry her on his back.
The old man continued, “I took her on my back and started climbing the mountain, but after reaching some height, I had to stop.
“She knew what was happening — or what was going to happen — and she started to cry.
“– Baba, don’t you know what the army or Taliban will do to me?
“What do you want me to do?
The old man started crying.
“I buried her in the mountain.”
It was cold the day the old man told me his story. He had no jacket or socks.
BackChannels would suggest that memories live in aural and visual and other sense-based impressions, i.e., what we most remember are moments, not the day and hour of their making or what we had for breakfast in proximity to them — and then what makes a “moment” a long-term memory may be its elevated emotional aspects, and that made so by ethical, moral, or sensual experience.
The Tirah Valley has seen more than its portion — however God may determine these things — of conflict violence. Because the day and hour were indefinite in the memory of the blog’s source, BackChannels may place it (as a suggestion) around March 25, 2015 in light of The New York Times headline, “Pakistani Army Begins Offensive to Drive Militants from Tirah Valley” (Ismail Khan). However, Pakistan Armed Forces fighting with the Taliban in association with the Tirah Valley predates the 2015 offensive.
For those living with peace, security, and perhaps some prosperity, there may be “good war stories”, ever courageous, inspiring, and noble, but, really, there are no good war stories that are not also deeply tragic and frequently disturbing — but that’s why we read them and, perhaps, choose to evolve.
taliban with weapons roam there freely…….it seems that they are making another sawat or waziristan……no one can ask them about their activities even the tribal chief nawab is silent…..and just 100 away from killa saif ullah there comes loralai city ,a city of 5 lac population most people educated, the in loralai a young man was beheaded by taliban his video of slaughtering also came on scene…there was a letter with his body in which they had warned the people that whoever speaks against taliban would see the same fate
Posted verbatim as received 9/26/2014.
After more than a decade of effort, Taliban continue to promote and produce mayhem and murder in many districts of as yet unsecured frontiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The miscreants remain “hard to see” until they show up, and Out There they continue to show up in force and continue demonstrating ability to choreograph their assaults.
Pakistani Dawn reported a decapitation in Loralai back in June of this year, and I cannot tell whether the correspondent had that to rely or something new.
Taliban have beheaded 12 civilians and torched some 60 homes in an assault on security forces in the eastern Ghazni province, an Afghan official said.
The province’s deputy police chief Asadullah Ensafi said the Taliban have attacked several villages over the past week in the Arjistan district.
http://www.dawn.com/news/1112630 – ” Decapitated Body Found in Laralei” – 6/14/2014.
http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/Balochistan/index.html – “Balochistan Assessment – 2014”.
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Fly any banner, service to others forms the bedrock of civil societies, and journalists, perhaps war journalists especially, serve others every hour afield. Across the jagged puzzle pieces of the Islamic Small Wars, journalists have been doing more than “taking it on the chin” — they have been taking bullets and leaving behind children and spouses, colleagues and readers.
The end of last week saw the brutally cold blooded, cold hearted, and senseless murder of AP photojournalist Anja Neidringhaus and the attempted murder of AP veteran Kathy Gannon by a so-called “defender” of civil order, of the innocent, and of Islam, Afghan police platoon commander Naqibullah, a man one report cites as enraged by NATO air strikes on his village elsewhere in the country.
If that’s the way he felt, what was he doing heading up a state police unit in the first place?
Two women sitting in a car and along comes this nut with an AK-47 . . . .
Life’s not much better across the border in Pakistan — see, for example, the Committee to Protect Journalist’s recent article, “What should happen following the Raza Rumi attack”.
While reading over the latest from the attack on Kathy Gannon and Anja Neidringhaus, I found news of still recent other murders of journalists in Afghanistan: Nils Horner, a Swedish broadcast journalist assassinated on the street; Sardar Ahmad, whose entire family was gunned down by teenage numbnuts shooting up the dinner hour at Kabul’s Serena Hotel restaurant — call the method “gangdum style”: after three hours of fighting, security managed to kill the baby killers (“Three Afghan children between 2 and 5 years old were shot point-blank in the head, the Reuters news agency reported”) after three hours of fighting, but not before nine people had died.
In the BackChannels way (until I get out of this place, if ever), excerpts follow.
She covered every major conflict, every massive world-changing event of the past 25 years. She was unflinchingly brave. Not in a cavalier way, but more like “This is very dangerous. But it’s important. It has to be done. It has to be covered. Who else is going to do it? I’m going.”
* * *
Two unidentified men approached Nils Horner, 51, in Kabul’s diplomatic district this morning, according to a New York Times report citing Col. Najibullah Samsour, a senior police official. One of the assailants shot Horner in the head at close range, and then both men fled the scene, the report said.
* * *
A gregarious 40-year-old star of Afghanistan’s booming media scene, Ahmad had an eye for both a story and a joke that helped him juggle two jobs as senior correspondent for Agence France-Press and head of media firm Pressistan, which he founded to support visiting foreign correspondents.
Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Sardar Ahmad: a courageous journalist who delivered exceptional coverage: Colleagues pay tribute to a dedicated Afghan journalist killed along with his wife and two daughters by Taliban gunmen in Kabul.” The Guardian, March 21, 2014.
An enraged Afghan police commander on a “secure base”; Taliban assassins; four teenagers with guns — and gone: a courageous and talented AP photographer; an award-winning Swedish radio reporter; a brave Afghan journalists, husband, and father.
Whatever the motives of the killers, however they felt, whatever they were paid, they have been offing the best of the best, the most just, most merciful, and most free among mankind.
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I’m all set up and am having real issues navigating next steps in one of the most modern societies in the world: I may only imagine what it’s like to be anonymous on the streets of a passive and teaming nation like Pakistan or a somewhat bureaucratized and Orwellian culture that erupts at the interface of person and government in the west. Without family or stable and helpful community-based networks, we have and sometimes number among a legion of nearly unaccounted and uncomfortably roaming persons. Some part of that may contribute to freedom and “rugged individualism” and some part, plainly, to horror.
The inspiration for the above thought: Eulogy for Ahmad Ali Jafari | Overland literary journal – 8/13/2013.
With a soul like Jafarai, the person may be less lost than the state of origin and so many unwittingly receiving and subsequent and temporarily hosting nations as compelled migration — especially migration compelled by famine or war — and illegal immigration are a matched pair.
There’s plenty of trending news for cyberchat and cybergossip, but as I do here and others do in the various communities and forums that comprise the still emerging “Facebook civilization”, people reach back to make or suggest points or draw parallels between discrete or separated but analogous circumstances.
Community detention centers, tent camps, semi-permanent refugee camps correspond to reactions to disasters. We see so many of them each year — earthquakes and tsnunami, hurricanes and typhoons, sometimes volcanoes, sometimes, these days, damaged nuclear reactors, and then ever present conflict as well as community- or state-wide financial stress and disaster — that one wonders how far ahead of a bad circumstance the world less affected by a given emergency may make itself.
With the World Wide Web well established and robust, the suffering of distant people are no longer that distant in either common perception or space.
Ahmad Ali Jafari needed a place to land, or even if returned to Afghanistan, some program in which he was accounted and helpfully reoriented, integrated, and included.
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“Talib” means student.
I’ve gone to the trouble to look this up, so I’m going to share it with you:
“After U.S.-backed mujahideen forced Soviet troops to end their almost decade-long occupation in 1989, Washington turned its back on Afghanistan as it collapsed into a ferocious civil war. Five years later, as local legend has it, members of a warlord’s militia kidnapped and gang-raped two teenaged girls at a checkpoint in his home village of Singesar, in the dust-blown badlands an hour’s drive from the southern city of Kandahar. It was a common crime, one that normally would have faded into the brutal monotony of violence that was strangling Afghanistan in 1994. but this time the atrocity changed the destiny not only of a country, but the world.
Mullah Mohammed Omar, an obscure country cleric and mujahideen veteran who lost an eye to shrapnel during the war against the Soviets, decided he had had enough. He mustered a small group of fighters, attacked the checkpoint, and then hanged the militia commander from a tank barrel. He then fled across the Pakistan border to the province of Baluchistan, where with the help of military intelligence, he recruited fighters fired up for a new jihad by the puritanical Wahabi theology exported from Saudi Arabia and taught in hundreds of Pakistan’s madrassas, or Koranic schools.”
_Watson, Paul. _Where War Lives_. 167-168. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2007
Does that legend not fit with the assortment of bits and pieces everyone here knows?
While it would seem perfectly rational of me to have become computer literate — I was probably the last graduate student to run an 80-column card set through the Univac at the University of Maryland — to keep up with computers, to acquire broadband, to leave the virtual shore by exploring foreign news on English-language web sites (first stop: Somalia; second: Pakistan), to become involved with blogging (first), and to open a Facebook account (second), there is nothing rational about my sharing the curiosity of 2007 and a book purchased then with virtual friends on a growing forum in Islamabad.
For years I have remembered the story but not whether it was written by Paul Watson, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning photojournalist, or Dexter Filkins, who most certainly ranks among the best war journalists ever.
What I wonder about today is not what motivated Mullah Omar, of course, of what the movement has led to in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the world itself, but rather what possessed the warlord and his crowd to rape two village girls: from whence came that evil?
The “heavy half” of readers seem most often to want to get their eyes on the latest first edition, but I cannot too highly recommend revisiting Paul Watson’s 2007 reflection and remembrance of the wars he had covered to that time — and God has blessed him: he is still out in the field.
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