Archive | Afghanistan

Afghan Refugees Feeling the Heat as US-Pakistan Geopolitical Tensions Rise

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Last week, the Pakistani government callously doubled down on its strategy of using Afghan refugees as pawns in its ongoing political dispute with Afghanistan when it refused to grant a long-term extension of their stay in Pakistan. Islamabad’s move will anger Kabul, which has struggled to absorb and reintegrate the massive influx of Afghans returning from Pakistan in recent years.

On December 31, the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards of 1.4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan expired after the federal government refused to provide an extension on time.  The PoR cards allow the refugees to live in Pakistan “legally” and avoid harassment by the state. On January 3, the long-suffering refugees learned they would only be given a 30-day extension, rather than the 1-year extension the government had been considering under a trilateral agreement with Afghanistan and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The decision to limit the extension to 30 days was made during a meeting of the federal Cabinet in Islamabad which was chaired by Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

There are currently 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, with hundreds of thousands of undocumented refugees also living in the country.  The first wave of refugees began came over from Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, with many more arriving during the bloody civil war of the 1990s.  In 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan, beginning the longest war in American history. The 16-year neo-colonial occupation has devastated the lives of the Afghan people and created a new generation of refugees.

Many of the refugees have lived in Pakistan for decades and have had children in the country. There are indeed children among the 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. A large number of refugees have established firm roots in the country and have lost all ties to Afghanistan. Kabul has struggled mightily to reintegrate the refugees into Afghan society, repeatedly insisting that Afghanistan does not have the resources to deal with massive numbers of returnees from across the border. Many refugees are also terrified at the prospect of returning to war-torn Afghanistan.  Civilian casualties due to the war reached a 16-year high during the first six months of 2017, according to the UN.

Pakistani politicians often scapegoat the refugees as “terrorists” and charge them with being a burden on the state.  Indeed, while Islamabad has agreed not to forcibly return refugees to Afghanistan, in recent years, it has resorted to a policy of intimidation and harassment of the refugees, so as to bring about their “voluntary” repatriation to the country.  In mid-2016, Pakistan launched what Gerry Simpson, a refugee expert at Human Rights Watch, described at the time as the “world’s largest recent anti-refugee crackdown.”  Afghan refugees have told human rights organizations about the cruel methods used by Pakistani authorities to coerce them into leaving for Afghanistan, including deportation during the winter and police abuses like arbitrary detention, extortion and nocturnal police raids. In fact, during the recent three day period during which 1.4 million refugees lost their documented status, the refugees were reportedly harassed by security personnel, leading them to confine themselves in their homes until the 30-day extension was granted.

In seeking to build domestic support for the forced repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan, Pakistani officials have described the refugee camps where the Afghans live as “safe havens” for terrorists. There is no doubt, however, that Islamabad hopes to use the refugee crisis to punish Afghanistan for shifting ever closer towards it arch-rival, New Delhi.

The deepening alliance between Afghanistan and India is viewed by Pakistan’s ruling elites as a vital security threat due to their fear of “strategic encirclement” by India, but Washington has turned a blind eye to Islamabad’s concerns and has encouraged the two countries to further enhance bilateral relations.  Moreover, US President Donald Trump has recently adopted a hardline stance towards Islamabad, with Washington suspending military aid to Pakistan on January 4.  The increasingly belligerent approach of the US towards Pakistan, where anti-US sentiment remains high, has forced the country’s ruling establishment to adopt a defiant stance towards Washington. Pakistan’s working-class majority remains steadfastly opposed to America’s imperialist war in Afghanistan, and to their government’s role in supporting and facilitating the ongoing occupation. With few options available to hit back at the US and Afghanistan, there is a danger that the Pakistani government may decide to throw the Afghan refugees to the wolves.

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Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

‘Not enough even for coffee’: UK troops in Afghanistan get £1 each to celebrate Christmas

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 Christmas in Vietnam was different, girls brought in, all of us got to meet Bob Hope personally, hot turkey dinners, christmas carols.
The military wouldn’t have sent every combat unit into the bush before the holiday so that the REMF contingent of service academy types could celebrate in total safety.
The truth is a thousand times worse than this.g

As PM May praised the military for keeping the UK safe in her Christmas message, troops abroad were not exactly in a festive mood. It has emerged that 500 soldiers in Afghanistan received just £1 each to celebrate the holiday.

Five hundred British troops deployed to Afghanistan were allocated a total of just £500 ($700) for Christmas, the Sunday Times revealed.  Some said the defense chiefs’ frugality left the troops lagging far behind their foreign counterparts as soldiers from the  American contingent reportedly received eight Christmas trees, decorations, turkeys, numerous gifts, and even a copy of the new Star Wars film.

“The contrast between the American and British approach is staggering,” said a British officer stationed in Kabul. “As an army we don’t have as much money as the US, but even the Danish and Mongolians seem to be doing more,” he noted.

The tight Christmas budget has affected morale, one soldier told the newspaper: “They haven’t even sent us enough for a coffee. The Americans send in more money to feed the stray cats on their compound.”

Christmas festivities for troops from the Yorkshire Regiment have been limited to sneaking out and swapping the stars on the American trees for Yorkshire flags, the paper said. The ministry of defense said arrangements for Christmas festivities “are made locally,” it added.

While cash-strapped, the troops did not feel completely forgotten. “It has been staggering to see the number of parcels that have arrived for us from friends and family,” said the officer. In addition, Christmas lunch was still served on Friday, complimented by snow, which fell last week in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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This  our UK Armed Forces will be deployed around the world on 25 operations in more than 30 countries. Take a look at just a few of the many places that they’ll be spending Christmas this year. 

The report on Christmas allowances came shortly after UK Prime Minister Theresa May stressed the “enormous debt we owe to our armed forces and veterans” in her Christmas message to the military.

“Whenever you are called upon – regulars or reserves – you always give of your best and inspire us all with your service,” May said, adding, “the valiant hearts of our servicemen and women, many far away from their own loved ones at this special time of year, are working to keep us safe.”

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It was lovely to spend time with the families of our Armed Forces stationed in Cyprus today and wish them all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Посмотреть изображение в ТвиттереПосмотреть изображение в Твиттере

I was pleased to arrive in Cyprus last night, to today let our brave armed forces know just how vital their work is – and how much I appreciate the sacrifices that they and their families make in the service of our country, particularly at Christmas. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-address-to-troops-at-raf-akrotiri-22-december-2017 

Afghanistan remains Britain’s largest overseas deployment.

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The Unlikely Industry Empowering Women in Afghanistan

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By Ruchi KumarYES! Magazine

The Unlikely Industry Empowering Women in Afghanistan

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The typical depiction of an Afghan woman looks like this: Timid and fearful, she is a victim of her extremely conservative and regressive society, unable to move around or do much without a man. But some Afghan women are busting these stereotypes, creating a niche for women to empower themselves and change the status quo.

A 36-year-old restaurant owner named Laila Haidary walks around the cafe gardens, carefully tending to the colorful foliage that grows generously around Kabul. She narrates her story of building a business in Afghanistan, a country governed by the rules of men. Overlooking the gardens is a midsize structure: a traditional Afghan house, with thick walls, large windows, and ample courtyard space, converted to a cozy restaurant with old tables and chairs and plenty of handmade rugs. The vibe is welcoming.

Haidary explains she wanted to provide a social space for artists and other young Afghans who want to interact with their culture and rich heritage. “This idea in itself had its own challenges because our extremely conservative society does not always approve of artistic expressions. Added to that, the fact it is run by a businesswoman makes many people uncomfortable,” she says.

Haidary’s cafe is among the many newer restaurants in Kabul, and around Afghanistan, that are either owned or managed by women in an otherwise male-dominated industry. Although data measuring this trend wasn’t available at the time of publishing, anecdotally, more women are entering the service industry: Within a two-block radius of my home in Kabul, I can count seven restaurants that have come up in the past year; that wasn’t the case in 2014, when I first came here.

Of course, not every woman in the industry is a business owner. A small but significant number of Afghan women are working jobs in the service sector — a profile that was unimaginable for Afghan women a decade ago and is still considered inappropriate.

“I feel like I’m breaking stereotypes every day by just being here. That makes me feel very proud of myself,” says 20-year-old Mujda Nasiri, who started working at 50/50, a local fast-food restaurant in Kabul, about a year ago. “Initially, my parents were reluctant, but now that they see how independent I have become, financially and personally, they’re happy for me,” she says, adding that she had always been fascinated by the restaurant industry.

In a deeply conservative society such as Afghanistan, women have few avenues to pursue careers. Many of the jobs available — such as manual labor, technical positions, and banking and finance — are not considered suitable for women because traditionally a woman’s priority has been with her family and, especially, their honor. Added to that are the decades of war that have left the Afghan economy enormously dependent on foreign aid, thereby increasing unemployment and competition in the markets. As the rate of unemployment peaked at 40 percent in 2015, it has been even more challenging for women to be considered for jobs in a market that tends to favor men.

However, restaurants such as 50/50, which strives to be an equal opportunity employer, hires several women in various positions. “We are trying to create an all-inclusive space for our customers, especially for women and families, who can come here without any fear of harassment. Such a place is also good for women to work at,” explains Zahir, 37, the restaurant manager at 50/50 (most Afghans traditionally go by just one name). “We also find that women employees are more professional, timely, and able to work with grace despite pressures — a right fit for this industry.”

Nasiri is one of three waitresses the restaurant hired last year, and the move was welcomed by many of their customers. “I’ve had a very good experience working here; my colleagues are like my family and are very protective of my safety,” she says, recalling an incident where a displeased customer lectured her about how inappropriate such a job was for a woman.

“But I see that there has been a change in attitudes,” Nasiri says. “I find that a lot of our customers are not only happy to see me serve them, but [are] also very encouraging of my work. This one elderly gentleman was so happy to meet a working woman, that he left me a Afs1000 [$15] tip to keep me motivated,” she says, adding that the joy of meeting new people every day is a bigger motivation than money to stay with this job.

Twenty-five-year-old Nikbhakt, a barista at a local coffee shop frequented by the many foreigners and expats in Kabul, would agree with Nasiri. “I’ve been making and serving coffee for the last four years, and the best part of my job is interacting with people from around the world,” she says. There was a time when an Afghan woman couldn’t leave the house without a mahram — a male escort who is a blood relative — let alone talk to other people. Women had few places to engage socially in the extremely conservative and patriarchal society under the Taliban regime in the late 1990s.

Parents have reason to be concerned about their working daughters. Harassment at work and in public is a common sight in Kabul and other Afghan cities. Afghan women have to fight many gender stereotypes and inequalities along with abuse if they choose to pursue a career, any career. As a result, many women prefer jobs that require less mobility because even the act of traveling to work daily can often subject women to street harassment. Added to this the rising insecurity further discourages families from allowing their daughters to go to work.

Last year, the cafe where Nikbhakt works was attacked, and she barely missed the explosion that claimed the lives of two people, including the cafe’s guard. “I was extremely depressed for a long time after that attack. My family didn’t want me to work anymore, and I didn’t want to step out of home, either,” she says. “But now I know that cutting myself from the world isn’t a solution, and decided to come back to work two months ago.”

Since no institutes offer training to work in the service sector, Afghans have to learn on the job, which can be tedious for the employers. “We’ve had to let two of our female staff go because they were unable to cope with the pressure of working in a restaurant, but that isn’t to say that women can’t work in this industry,” Zahir says. “The environment, of course, matters, and it is perhaps up to us as employers to help create working environments that allow women to work comfortably and to their full potential.”

Women customers are drawn to restaurants where women work. “Having women around the restaurant creates a comforting and calm environment that eventually attracts a wide diversity of customers,” says Haidary, who also employs several women as servers, managers, and cooks.

She started her cafe as a way to fund her other initiative: the Mother Camp, a nonprofit drug rehabilitation shelter she opened seven years ago for homeless addicts in Kabul. When the funding to the shelter started to dry up (few in Afghanistan consider donating to rehabilitating drug addicts), Haidary and her volunteers came up with the idea of establishing this cafe. Even today, most of her employees are former or recovering addicts from the Camp, which also continues to help hundreds of Afghans recover every year.

Haidary has been successful as a restaurateur, but the ride hasn’t been smooth. On the contrary, she faced several threats and intimidations, sometimes even from her own customers who would show up drunk or high on hashish to her cafe, breaking her one cardinal rule — no drugs, no alcohol.

Terrorized but not afraid, Haidary would often take these men head-on. “There was a time when she literally pounced on a large Afghan man who was a guard to a local parliamentarian,” recalls a regular customer at Taj Begum who witnessed the attack. “He had come drunk to the cafe, gotten into a brawl, and threatened to have [Haidary] shut down. When [she] protested, and had him kicked out of the cafe, he smashed her car windows.”

Despite that chaos, Haidary persisted because she wanted to be an inspiration to other women in Afghanistan. “Even when the going got tough, I didn’t quit. Not only did I need this to support Mother Camp, but I also wanted to show to our society that a woman can run a successful business,” she says.

The social change, however, will have to be gradual, and Afghan society will need more time to accept working women, especially in the service sector, as a norm. That said, women have come by leaps and bounds, having survived many wars and the brutal and patriarchal Taliban regime, during which they couldn’t even step out of their homes without male escorts. They know they’re more than just victims — they’re survivors who are overcoming odds, every day.

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Pentagon weighs regional players in Afghanistan

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Image result for TALIBAN US FRIENDS CARTOON
By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The Pentagon’s latest 6-monthly report on the Afghan situation to the US Congress conveys the picture of ‘work in progress’ in regard of President Trump’s new strategy. It exudes an air of optimism. The 100-page report reiterates that the US is determined to bludgeon the Taliban into submission and make them crawl to the negotiating table.

The Pentagon’s assessment of the role of various regional powers, although the unclassified portions, provides food for thought. For a start, the report refrains from any overt criticism of Pakistan’s role. There are references to Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan but no allegation that the insurgents are getting Pakistani support. An indirect reference appears where the report takes note that “certain extremist groups—such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network—retain freedom of movement in Pakistan.” On the other hand, the report also acknowledges that Pakistani military operations have “disrupted some militant sanctuaries.”

Secondly, the Pentagon underscores that the military-to-military leadership with Pakistan “remains critical to the success of our mutual interests in the region.” But to move forward in regional cooperation, “we must see fundamental changes in the way Pakistan deals with terrorist safe-havens.” The US intends to deploy “a range of tools to expand cooperation with Pakistan in areas where our interests converge and to take unilateral steps in areas of divergence.” Curiously, the latter part regarding “unilateral steps” has been left unexplained.

Interestingly, the report acknowledges that there are sanctuaries on Afghan soil for terrorist groups that create violence in Pakistan and walks a fine line as regards the “mutual security interests” of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It scrupulously refrains from apportioning blame. This is difficult to understand. Does the Pentagon mean that the Afghan government pursues certain policies over which the US has no control? Or, is it that there are rogue elements within the Afghan state structure?

Among regional actors, Pentagon comes down heavily on Russia’s role. Moscow’s intentions have been shown to be hostile, aimed at undermining the US’ influence in the region by “engaging with the Taliban and putting pressure on Central Asian neighbors to deny support to US and NATO efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.” But there is no allegation in the report that Russia is helping the Taliban with arms supplies.

Indeed, the chances are very remote that US and Russia would cooperate in the war effort in Afghanistan. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disclosed last week that the US is forcing Afghan army to get rid of Kalashnikov rifles, which the military is trained to handle, with a view to eliminate Russia as a partner in any significant way. The Pentagon report claims that Afghan-Russian relations are under strain due to Moscow’s “acknowledgment of communication with the Taliban and support of the Taliban’s call” for US and NATO’s withdrawal.

In comparison, when it comes to China, the Pentagon wears kid gloves. Amazingly, the report says, “China’s low, but increasing levels of military, economic and political engagement in Afghanistan are driven by domestic security concerns… and China’s increasing desire to protect its regional economic investments.” China is seen as a benign presence. China’s involvement with the Quadrilateral Consultative Group is singled out and there is a hint at China’s potential to influence Pakistani policies.

Evidently, the US keeps in view that a need might arise for the Northern Distribution Network to be activated via the Central Asian region if push comes to shove in the relations with Pakistan.

The portion on Iran is highly nuanced. The report says in as many words that “Iran and the United States share certain interests” in Afghanistan and although Tehran on the whole seeks to “limit US influence and presence” in Afghanistan, particularly in western Afghanistan, it “could explore ways to leverage Iran’s interests in support of US and Afghan objectives in the areas of counternarcotics, economic development and counterterrorism.” The report shows understanding that “Iran’s ultimate goal is a stable Afghanistan where Shi’a communities are safe, economic interests are protected and the US military presence is reduced.”

This is a surprisingly positive assessment at a juncture when Trump is ratcheting up anti-Iran rhetoric and Nikki Haley is firing away. Clearly, the rhetoric is meant to appease Israel and Saudi Arabia, while the Pentagon, which is steering the actual policies on the ground, just stops short of acknowledging that Iran could be a factor of stability in Afghanistan.

The most interesting thing about India, of course, is that the US appeals to Delhi to provide more assistance to Afghanistan, but limited to “economic, medical and civic support”. No surprises here.

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Yemen, Afghanistan in focus as landmine casualties spike

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Image result for SAUDI landmine CARTOON

Landmines killed 8,605 people in several countries in 2016, despite an international ban on the deadly device, a monitoring group says.

According to the annual report released Thursday by Landmine Monitor, about three-quarters of the known casualties were civilians, including more than 1,000 children who were injured and nearly 500 who were killed.

The number of the casualties — which were mostly recorded in Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen — showed a 30% surge compared to 2015.

“A few intense conflicts, where utter disregard for civilian safety persists, have resulted in very high numbers of mine casualties for the second year in a row,” Loren Persi, an editor of the Landmine Monitor said.

Persi described the spike as “alarming”, adding that the true number of the victims would be significantly higher if the data gathering were complete.

The surge comes after a 18-year decline in landmine casualties since the Mine Ban Treaty first came into force in 1999.

The treaty bans the use of landmines and other explosive devices placed on or under the ground, designed to blow up when somebody unintentionally steps on them.

These weapons can be continuously deadly weapons for many years, long after the war has ended. About 80% of landmine victims are civilians.

The Mine Ban Treaty, which has been signed by 163 countries, also bans production, stockpiling and transfer of the deadly landmines.

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Is TIME’s Afghan “cover girl” really a victim of mutilation by the Taleban?

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Zero Anthropology 

TIME : What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan (story)

 

BOING BOING : What Still Happened Despite 10 Years of Occupying Afghanistan (story)

ZERO ANTHRO : What Happens When We Don’t Fix Problems at Home (story)

The August 9th TIME magazine cover story is about a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears have been allegedly “mutilated” by the Taleban. The story has generated widespread self-serving moral indignation and self-righteous clamor in the U.S. propaganda machine supporting the occupation of Afghanistan run by the Israeli-American weapon-making industry. The American culture cleansing project in Afghanistan must be in need of a booster shot from the radical feminist forces that so fervently collaborated with the American war machine in initiating this racist imperial enterprise in 2001. Perhaps the flaunting of this fictitious story is a desperate attempt by the Obama war regime to offset the steep decline of support for this murderous program against unarmed and helpless pre-industrial Afghanistan. Let us recall the production of the picture of the frightened green-eyed Afghan girl on the cover of the National Geographic magazine to justify the United States sponsorship of local anti-government terrorist gangs who currently host the American occupation of Afghanistan.

TIME’s story does not provide its readers with any specific or credible factual text and context about what has really caused the deformity in this young woman’s face. Like much fiction that has been produced in the shadow of the American war machine in Afghanistan, this “story” appears to be a string of hearings and imaginings about women’s life in Afghanistan put together by Aryn Baker and Jodi Bieber, two young American journalists who probably first encountered Afghanistan in the pages of “the kite runner”. Having the readers see the reporters’ pictures (p. 4) in a “Kabul kite shop” speaks to the compelling impact of the untruths about life in Kabul in that “bestseller” book. What is the relationship of kites to a story about a mutilated nose? TIME’s story by Baker and Bieber has no truth value. Let us have a closer look at some of the cultural content and ethnographic claims in this fabricated telltale.

The narrative in which the Taleban single out this young woman for ears and nose mutilation at the instigation of her husband cannot be credible when exposed to the spatial, temporal, and cultural framework provided by the reporters.  First, Urozgan province is located in central Afghanistan not “southern” Afghanistan. And if the alleged mutilation took place in central or northern Urozgan,TIME’s tale becomes even less credible for these parts of Urozgan are home to non-Paxtuns, especially Hazaras. What is the victim’s ethnic background? Even if the agency of this “mutilation” were the Taleban, why would they devote this amount of precious human resources in a hostile area to the personal disenchantment of a single Taleb foot soldier with his runaway wife, Aisha? This does not make tactical or strategic sense.

The Taleban dragged Aisha “to a mountain clearing near her village” where “[s]hivering in the cold  air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband’s family, she faced her spouse and accuser… and men moved to deliver her punishment. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. Aisha passed out from her pain but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountaintop to die” (pp. 20-22).  If the men wanted Aisha to die, why did they not kill her on the spot, on the mountain? Why give her a chance to live? Why risk her potential recovery and/or rescue?

To receive her punishment, why would Aisha have to be dragged to the mountain clearing (or is it a “mountainside”)? Where is this mountain clearing or side located in Urozgan? However, it must be at a distance from the village. And if TIME’s narrative is valid, the mutilation is a public affair with the husband, his family, and Taleban officials present. Thus, there are witnesses to the mutilation of Aisha’s nose and ears.  These witnesses, especially members of her husband’s family, can be located. Did Aisha “pass out” from “pain” or loss of blood? How does a victim whose ears and nose have been mutilated and is choking on her own blood, and left alone “on the mountainside to die” survive such virtually fatal injuries? The human face is heavily irrigated with blood. I am not a medical doctor, but based on common sense, it would not take more than a few minutes of suffering heavy blood loss from open veins around the nose and ears to become fatal? How does a rural 19 year girl in such perilous medical condition, bleeding from open veins around her nose and ears, manage to move from a mountainside in remote Urozgan to a “shelter” in downtown Kabul hundreds of miles away? “A few months after Aisha arrived at the shelter, her father tried to bring her home with promises that he would find her a new husband. Aisha refused to leave. In rural areas, a family that finds itself shamed by a daughter sometimes sells her into slavery, or worse, subjects her to a so-called honor killing—murder under the guise of saving the family’s name” (p. 26). Now, what are the prospects (or practical feasibility) for marriage of a woman who has her ears and nose mutilated for having dishonored her own family, husband, and in-laws in patriarchal Afghanistan or for that matter in patricentric United States? What would be the market value of Aisha’s labor? What kind of labor could a severely mutilated woman like this produce as a slave? Only total ignorance of the Afghan cultural plane and complete disregard for the intelligence of the audience by the American popular media would allow such fabricated prattle to see the light of public print.

Aisha’s disposition could be congenital. It could be caused by a bacterial or viral infection such as cancer, a malady not rare in Afghanistan among both men and women. Or it could be related to an injury caused by firearms or explosives. Harelips and other deformities in the mandible, although rare, occur in the population of Afghanistan. Incidents of human body deformities in Afghanistan have steadily increased with the expanding military interference of the United States going back to the 1980s. These incidents have soared since 2001 with the American occupation and experimentation with weapon systems designed for “population centered wars” in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The non-Paxtun Northern Alliance warlords and their inner circles are the only Afghans that pray and beg for the American military presence in Afghanistan. It was these anti-Paxtun American trained and subsidized terrorist gangs who scouted and pimped for the American occupation of Afghanistan. And it is the Northern Alliance that opposes a political solution in Afghanistan because any such solution would remove them from power and expose and punish their criminal deeds. Amrullah Saleh, a known psychopath and a leading member of this criminal gang who headed Afghanistan’s intelligence services, recently expatiated: “I have killed many of them (Taleban) with pride”, killing “them is part of my blood” (Lara Logan interview on “60 Mintes”, August 1, 2010). The informants for TIME’s reporters of this story are the female dependents of the Northern Alliance criminal clique one of whom is credited with this rabid hateful lie “I go running in the stadium where the Taliban used to play football with women’s heads” (p. 24). This woman is pictured standing in Kabul stadium with three Kabuli teenagers in the background clearly running-in-place! There is not a shred of evidence for a football game played with human heads anywhere at any time in Afghanistan. TIME magazine has truly stooped to the lowest standards in journalism. During the 1990s the Kabul stadium was used once for the public execution of a woman found guilty of violating a Taleban decree.

The American intimate love affair during the past three decades with the various gangs of terrorists including Al-Qaeda, Hezb-e Islami, Northern Alliance, and sporadically the early manifestation of the Taleban movement during the 1990s has inflicted irreparable damage on the political, economic, and security prospects of Afghanistan. The ethnic and sectarian divisions caused by the American military operations and criminal deeds in South Asia has brought the frail state structure of Afghanistan to the verge of total collapse. It has destabilized the whole region. Tens of thousands of innocent and helpless Afghans have been slaughtered by the American Zionist-controlled killing machine. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity for which history will condemn its perpetrators.

On an ethnographic level, the manipulation of the body of the subject human population by the state has historical roots in several culture areas including Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. To this day in the popular lore of non-Paxtun areas of Afghanistan (especially among the Farsi-speaking population) a person, male or female, who compromises the interests and standards of the larger community, is symbolically labeled “beeni borida” (Farsi, one whose nose has been cut, one who has lost his nose, i. e. one who has lost her/his honor, a person without honor). The equivalent of this linguistic construct and its cultural content does not exist among Paxtuns.

However, no matter the untruths and distortions from which TIME’s August 9th cover story is concocted, we need a proper comparative cultural framework for the understanding of abuse of the human body including the practice of mutilation of body parts. An informed glance at global ethnographic realities connects such practices with a relation of power called patriarchy—male domination of society. As a system of ideas and practices patriarchy “is a threat to public health everywhere” (Laura Nader, Anthropology News, September 2006, p. 7) including Afghanistan and the United States. In principle the socio-cultural ingredients involved in the mutilation of the human body in Afghanistan are not different than the socio-cultural forces that impose industrial “vaginal rejuvenation”, “pussy tightening” (JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation, 9/28/2009, p. 8), and breast enhancement in Euro-America. In no other culturally constructed space are women, womanhood, and femininity so universally abused, exploited, demeaned, and vulgarized than in the Euro-American industry of internet pornography—the biggest money making enterprise in cyberspace. Comparative studies reveal that American domestic violence is approximately 25%–about the same as in Syria and Bolivia (Nader 2006:7). The extensive system of shelters for abused women throughout the United States is symptomatic of a widely practiced tradition of physical and verbal abuse of women by men that is qualitatively not different than the abuse of women by men elsewhere in the world.

TIME, you are a beeni borida!

_________

Addendum by Max Forte:

[“In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner” (source). 17.6 % of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape. Of these, 21.6% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4% were between the ages of 12 and 17. 64% of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date. Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years. One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5% – one out of twenty – of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free. The costs of intimate partner violence against women exceed an estimated $5.8 billion. These costs include nearly $4.1 billion in the direct costs of medical care and mental health care and nearly $1.8 billion in the indirect costs of lost productivity and present value of lifetime earnings. A University of Pennsylvania research study found that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to low-income, inner-city Philadelphia women between the ages of 15 to 44 – more common than automobile accidents, mugging and rapes combined. In this study domestic violence included injuries caused by street crime (see sources).]

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Turning the Corner in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

The news about the wars the U.S. is waging all over the world is unreliable. The same statements of progress are repeated year after year. The official numbers, be they of civilian casualties or deployed troops, are mere lies. Every news presentation should be engraved with a warning: “Assertions and numbers are not what they appear.” Consider, for example, the various “turned corner” statements officials have made about Afghanistan.

On October 5 2017 the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed to the BBC that Afghanistan has “turned the corner”:

… when I ask whether he is saying Afghan forces have turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban, there is no hesitation: “Yes,” he says.

On October 24 the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson agreed with President Ghani:

“With the mounting military, diplomatic, and social pressure that is building – that we all are collectively committed to sustaining over the coming years – the enemy will have no choice but to reconcile. I believe, as President Ghani says, ‘we have turned the corner,’” he concluded.

But a month later General Nicholson seemed to disagreed with his earlier statement:

“We are still in a stalemate,” Nicholson, a four-star Army general said in an exclusive interview.

Today, five days after his “stalemate” statement, the general’s opinion has changed again. Kevin Baron, the editor of Defense Onereports:

‏JUST IN: Top US general in Afghanistan says war has “turned a corner… “ The momentum is now with the Afghan security forces.” …

The General seems confused. But he is not the first to have such a change of mind.

On February 3 2010 then U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal was cautious about the proverbial corner:

General Stanley McChrystal also expressed confidence that Afghan forces would grow quickly enough to allow a reduction in U.S. troop numbers to begin on schedule in 2011. … “I‘m not prepared to say we have turned the corner,” he added.

Only twelve days later the turn had been made:

Gen Stanley McChrystal had his own words. Helmand had “turned the corner” in its four year war, he told The Daily Telegraph.

In May 2011 a British General also noted the turn:

The civilians are looking to people such as General James Bucknall, a British Coldstream Guards officer who is second in command of the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf).

[H]e sets out why he thinks a corner has now been turned, nodding to the surge in American troop numbers that has made it possible.

Six years earlier another British General had already seen that turn:

Handing over to 3 Commando Brigade, Brig Butler said: “When we prepared, we knew there would be rocky times ahead, and that things would get harder before they got easier. That has certainly been the case, but I judge we have turned the corner. We have achieved a huge amount.”

In May 2011 the U.S. Secretary of Defense was more cautious than the generals but nonetheless optimistic:

I think we could be in a position by the end of this year where we have turned the cornerin Afghanistan,” [U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates] said.

According to is boss, progress came faster than Gates anticipated. On June 23 2011 CBS headlined Obama: U.S. has turned corner in Afghanistan:

President Barack Obama on Thursday told American troops who’ve fought in Afghanistan that the U.S. has turned a corner after nearly 10 years of war, and it’s time for their comrades still in that country to start coming home.

Obama’s victory jump may have been a bit premature, but a month later the local commander agreed that the turning process had at least begun:

I spoke to Gen Petraeus as he stopped off in London on his way home from Afghanistan. In the interview, he spelled out what makes him think the country has begun to turn a corner after nearly 10 years of war.

In September 2012 another U.S. Secretary of Defense asserted that the turn had finally been completed:

[US Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta, however, has rejected suggestions that the strategy is failing, and on Friday he said “we have turned the corner,” in Afghanistan …

Four month later the Afghan President confirmed the turn:

[President] Karzai also said that Afghanistan has turned the corner in terms of battling the Taliban.

Karzai was very modest in acknowledging the turn. He knew that it had already happened much earlier:

On October 9th, 2004, Afghanistan turned the corner. After decades of invasion, civil war, and anarchy, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically-elected President of a united Afghanistan.

In May 2014 another man was elected President of Afghanistan. This finally turned the corner:

Tonight there is a sense that the country has turned a corner – a new president who will sign the BSA, a continuation of developmental aid and training programmes, and Afghanistan has more than a fighting chance.

A year later the Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani was encouraged by the corner turning progress the new government had made:

With the successful conclusion of the security and political transitions, Afghanistan turned the corner in our path to becoming a self-reliant nation.

Today, two and a half years later, General Nicholson is still in the corner turning business.

The corner turning in Afghanistan is similar to an earlier war the U.S. had fought in vain:

Of course, the Afghanistan War (ostensibly part of a Global War on Terrorism) differs from the Vietnam War (ostensibly part of the Cold War) in myriad ways. Yet it resembles Vietnam in three crucial respects. First, it drags on with no end in sight. Second, no evidence exists to suggest that mere persistence will produce a positive outcome. Third, those charged with managing the war have long since run out of ideas about how to turn things around.

Another similarity is the constant lying by the military spokespersons. The famous Five o’clock Follies of Vietnam have been replaced by video conferences and drone videos but the central issue is the same. The military is consistently and consciously lying to the public.

How many U.S. troops are there in Afghanistan? By law the Pentagon has to release the deployment numbers every three month. The latest release for September 2017 lists 15,298 soldiers and 1,202 DoD civilians in Afghanistan. But there are 29,092 soldiers listed in “unknown locations”. The generals must have lost these somewhere. The report also lists nearly 2,000 soldiers in Syrian and nearly 9,000 in Iraq. The publicly admitted numbers are way lower. They are as trustworthy as all the “turned corner” claims. Indeed:

The Defense Department’s publicly disclosed data, which tracks U.S. personnel levels in dozens of countries, are “not meant to represent an accurate accounting of troops deployed to any particular region,” said Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Pentagon clearly states that official data and assertions are “not meant to represent an accurate accounting”. It is a warning. Whatever officials claim about this or that war, about “turned corners”, or casualties, or troop deployments, must be considered to be a lie until it has been confirmed by observation or additional sources.

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US Bombing of Afghanistan Up by 300 Percent

The US media this week broadcast videos provided by the Pentagon purporting to show American airstrikes against Taliban-run “drug labs” in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Parroting claims by the top US military commander Gen. John Nicholson, television news broadcasters reported that Washington is attempting to stop the Islamist insurgency from “profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities.”

The bombing raids in Helmand announced on Monday are merely part of a sharp escalation in the US air war in Afghanistan that is claiming increasing numbers of civilian casualties. Statistics released Tuesday by the US Air Force Central Command establish that the Pentagon is on track to drop more than triple the number of bombs and missiles on the impoverished country this year, compared to 2016.

According to the US military’s own figures, it has dropped 3,554 weapons on Afghanistan during the first 10 months of this year and, at the current rate, is expected to top 4,000 before year’s end. Last month, it recorded 653 bombs and missiles used against Afghan targets, the highest number since November 2010 at the height of the Obama administration’s “surge”, when over 100,000 US troops were deployed in Afghanistan.

The latest raids included strikes by advanced F-22 stealth fighters, which the Pentagon claimed were employed in order to carry out “precision” bombing designed to avoid civilian casualties. This assertion was undercut by the fact that B-52 strategic bombers dropping 2,000-pound bombs were used in the same operation.

Under the new rules of engagement unveiled by the Trump administration in August, the military brass has been given a free hand to escalate the conflict as it sees fit. A total of 16,000 American troops are slated to be on the ground in Afghanistan by the beginning of next year, while the air war is expected to continue escalating

The claims by the Pentagon and the US media that the latest attacks were designed to combat drug trafficking are a patent fabrication aimed at evoking public sympathy for the more than 16 year-old war–America’s longest–that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Afghans, while turning millions into homeless refugees.

The reality is that poppy cultivation and drug trafficking from Afghanistan–which were banned by the Taliban regime–have grown exponentially since the US invaded the country in 2001. In the 16 years of US war and occupation, there has been a 20-fold increase in the territory under poppy cultivation, and the amount of opium produced in the country is 25 times that of 2001.

According to conservative UN estimates, opium production accounts for some 16 per cent of Afghanistan GDP and more than two-thirds of the entire agricultural sector of the country. Not just the Taliban, but government officials, from the top of the US-backed regime of President Ashraf Ghani to local police, are heavily involved in the trafficking of drugs, as are the collection of warlords cultivated by US imperialism as a counterweight to the Taliban.

Local leaders in Helmand province condemned the US raids, saying that they targeted rudimentary sheds in rural areas and did nothing to stop the production and trafficking of opium.

Moreover, among the victims of the airstrikes, unseen in the video-game style footage broadcast on US television news, were Afghan civilians, men, women and children. The entire family of a Helmand resident identified by local authorities as Habibullah was wiped out when a bomb struck their home on the western outskirts of the Musa Kala district center. A total of 12 were killed, including the man, his wife and their children.

The number of civilian casualties is today higher than at any time since the 2001 invasion, with the sharpest increase in deaths caused by air strikes and artillery barrages carried out by US and Afghan puppet forces.

The buildup of troops and airstrikes in Afghanistan is part of a broader US military escalation that is being carried out from the south Asian country, through the Middle East and into ever growing territory on the African continent.

Figures released by the Pentagon indicate that the number of US troops and contractors deployed in the Middle East has risen by 33 percent in the last four months alone, going from 40,517 to 54,180. This is undoubtedly a significant undercount, as the US military often fails to include forces that are rotated in and out of the region on a supposedly temporary basis.

This troop buildup has been carried out without any public announcement, much less debate, and is being decided by the cabal of current and former US generals who largely control US foreign policy. Sharp increases in the number of American troops deployed in a number of Persian Gulf countries are indications of Washington’s preparations for a war against Iran.

According to the latest quarterly reports from the Pentagon, between June and September, the US military deployment increased in the area’s two active war zones; in Iraq, from 8,173 to 9,122 and in Syria, from 1,251 to 1,723.

Far larger increases have been registered in neighboring countries. In Turkey, the number went from 1,405 to 2,265; in Qatar from 3,164 to 6,671; in Bahrain from 6,541 to 9,335; in the United Arab Emirates from 1,531 to 4,240 and in Kuwait, from 14,790 to 16,592. Further increases have been registered across the region, including in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen and Oman.

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US Military No Longer Cool With Narcotics Labs in Afghanistan, Bombs Them

An Afghan policeman decorates himself with opium plants as they destroy the crop, on a farm on March 14, 2013, in Babaji village-Helmand Province, south east Afghanistan. (Photo: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

An Afghan policeman decorates himself with opium plants as he destroys the crop on a farm on March 14, 2013, in Babaji village, Helmand Province, southeast Afghanistan. (Photo: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

The US Commander in Afghanistan announced several airstrikes on Sunday against opium production facilities, marking a shift in the Pentagon’s approach toward the booming illicit drug industry in the country.

Army Gen. John Nicholson reported that roughly ten opium laboratories in the Northern Helmand province were destroyed in the barrage.

The purported aim of the strikes was to cut off Taliban insurgents’ revenue streams.

The Washington Post noted the assault was the “first significant use” of new authorities President Trump bestowed upon the Pentagon, giving military commanders more latitude in targeting decisions.

Nicholson added that more strikes against Afghanistan’s opium network “will continue.” The Drug Enforcement Administration reports there are as many as 400 to 500 such facilities across the country.

Since the US occupation of Afghanistan began at the end of 2001, the Pentagon has been unable to get a handle on illegal opium production — despite spending vast sums on counternarcotics. In some cases, officials turned a blind eye to illegal drug activity when it was conducted by warlords who had forged alliances with the US during the war.

According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko, the US has spent $8 billion trying to stem the flow of Afghan narcotics.

Last year, Sopko told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he feared Afghanistan was descending into a “narco-terrorist state.”

One of the largest recipients of federal dollars to dismantle opium production in Afghanistan was the defense contracting firm Academi — formely known as Blackwater. According to data from SIGAR, Academi was paid $309 million between 2002 and 2013 to clamp down on drug manufacturing.

During that time, opium production steadily increased, and the total value of the crop grew by roughly $1 billion between 2012-2013.

Sunday’s strikes were carried out in conjunction with the Afghan armed forces.

“We’re determined to tackle criminal economy and narcotics trafficking with full force. It’s the main source of financing violence and terror,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Twitter Monday.

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New York Times Strikes Out Again on Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

American people expect full story from their “free press” and Constitution demands the press serve the people and not bureaucracy; New York Times needs to get its mission straight.

An old witticism going around the Soviet Union about truth (Pravda) in its final days went something like this: In the United States they tell you everything but you know nothing, in the USSR they tell you nothing but you know everything.

Who would ever be nostalgic for the old Soviet Union where truth was what the official government mouthpiece told you and everything else was a lie meant to undermine the state?

Whoever that might be, they would feel at home in the now totally neoconized U.S. where the old mainstream media marches in lockstep with a dysfunctional federal bureaucracy; to aggressively narrow freedom of speech and label anything that contradicts their ideological view of reality as enemy propaganda.

New York Times Building from the street level

From 1918 until its demise in 1991, the Russian people at least knew that Pravda (Truth) was the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But what most Americans would be surprised to learn is that The New York Times has been operating for decades as the U.S. government’s Pravda without anyone being the wiser.

Now the truth-war rages between the old mainstream media outlets like The New York Times and any news operation or website that puts out any story challenging their version of the official truth. Even Facebook and Googleare under attack. Much to our surprise we were recently drawn into this battle by a New York Times Obituary for our dearest Afghan friend, Sima Wali who fled the violent Marxist coup in 1978 that kicked off the U.S.-backed rise of Islamic extremism and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Considering that the Times maintains that the alternative media is filled with false news and Russian propaganda, we were shocked to find that there were many claims made in Sima’s obituary that contained American Cold War propaganda about Afghanistan that have long since been debunked as fabrication! One particularly outrageous example came with the claim that in 1978 “gender apartheid” had been “imposed by the Communists and then by the Taliban.”

Apparently The New York Times believes it can turn day to night by blaming the Communists for introducing “gender apartheid.” Gender apartheid was the name adapted (from the South African apartheid regime) in 1996 to draw the public’s attention to the cruelty and human rights abuses imposed by the Taliban on the women of Afghanistan. It was not imposed by the Communists after their takeover in 1978. In fact, quite the opposite was true.

Afghan Human Rights Expert Sima Wali Returns to Afghanistan in 2002 for the first time since her exile in 1978

As Sima stated in the introduction to our book Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,“The draconian Taliban rule stripped women of their basic human rights. Their edicts against women in Afghanistan led to an introduction of a new form of violence termed “gender apartheid.” In point of fact a major cause for the growth of the resistance to the Communists in the more tradition-bound countryside was the forced education of women and girls and the forced removal of the veil. Nor is it understood in the West that these reforms had been attempted by many Afghan rulers in the past with some level of success.

Related Articles  Sima Wali obituary | theguardian.com  What Have They Done to Our Fair Sister? by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould | VT

As David B. Edwards writes in his book Before Taliban , there is actually a direct line between these and other reforms to the reforms mandated by King Amanullah after 1919. He writes, “The transformations that he [Amanullah] sought to bring about before his overthrow in 1929 were in many respects forerunners of those of the Marxists and were particularly revealing of the problems they later encountered.”

An accurate picture of what was being done by the Communists during their rule in the early 1980s can be read in Jonathan Steele’s 2003 Guardian article Red Kabul revisited in which he compares the U.S. occupation of Kabul in 2003 with Soviet occupied Kabul of the 1980s. “In 1981, Kabul’s two campuses thronged with women students, as well as men. Most went around without even a headscarf. Hundreds went off to Soviet universities to study engineering, agronomy and medicine.

The banqueting hall of the Kabul hotel pulsated most nights to the excitement of wedding parties. The markets thrived. Caravans of painted lorries rolled up from Pakistan, bringing Japanese TV sets, video recorders, cameras and music centres. The Russians did nothing to stop this vibrant private enterprise.”

Prior to 9/11 Laili Helms, a spokeswoman for and defender of the Taliban and niece to former CIA director Richard Helms, went so far as to diss educating women as a Communist plot, claiming that any Afghan woman who could read had to be a Communist, because only the Communists had educated women.

After the American invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, Sima Wali was outraged by this Taliban mentality that she saw creeping into the American-installed Afghan leadership with the blessing of the American government. In an address to the Global Citizens Circle in Boston in 2003 she stated her objections clearly: “[A]s an Afghan and an American I will testify to you that the argument against women’s rights is neither Afghan nor Islamic!”

Thirty four years ago last May I stood before the irate Afghan press officer for the “Communist” government in Kabul, Afghanistan as he threw down a copy of The New York Times onto his desk. “Have you read this,” he demanded, pointing to an article by Leslie Gelb, titled “U.S. Said to Increase Arms Aid For Afghan Rebels.” What Gelb, The New York Times national security correspondent and former Carter administration Assistant Secretary of State had disclosed, angered the foreign ministry’s press secretary Roshan Rowan, and as an American he was holding me responsible. “Why are you doing this to us?” He shouted. “What is it we have done to you, to deserve this invasion?”

I didn’t need to rely on The New York Times to tell me what was going on in Afghanistan. As the first American journalist to risk the wrath of the Reagan administration’s newly installed neoconservative foreign policy by bringing a news crew to Kabul in 1981, I was one of only a handful of Americans who knew the score. The United States was backing Muslim guerillas that were burning down schools, specifically for girls and killing local officials regardless of whether they were Communist or not.

The Gelb article made clear that in collaboration with the Saudis, Egyptians, Chinese, Iranians and Pakistanis, the “bleeders” inside the Reagan administration were upping the ante in order to “draw more and more Soviet troops into Afghanistan,” while at the same time claiming to pursue “a negotiated settlement to the war.” It was not obvious from the Gelb article how the United States could be escalating a conflict in Afghanistan in 1983 while at the same time negotiating a settlement. Also missing from the article was any indication that the administration’s policy was a fundamental contradiction.

That spring of 1983 we had invited Roger Fisher, director of the Harvard Negotiation Project to return with us to Kabul to unwrap this riddle of why the UN negotiations were getting nowhere. Contracted to ABC Nightline, Roger met with the Kremlin’s chief Afghan specialist who’d flown down from Moscow and told him point blank, “We want to get out. Give us six months to save face and we’ll leave the Afghans to solve their own problems.”

Upon his return Roger expected his discovery would be greeted with relief. Instead he found that “negotiated settlement” was only a fig leaf for escalating the war. The mainstream media was just beginning to ramp up a propaganda campaign, which would become known as Charlie Wilson’s War, to drive support for keeping the Soviets pinned down in their own Vietnam while bleeding Sima Wali’s Afghanistan to death.

The American people expect the full story from their “free press” and the Constitution demands that the press serve the people and not the bureaucracy. The New York Times needs to get its mission straight lest it sacrifice its credibility to the very thing it claims to stand against. Left wing Afghan Communists cannot be magically transformed into right wing Pakistani Taliban. The United States is not the Soviet Union and The New York Times should stop behaving as if it is Pravda.

Copyright – 2017 Fitzgerald & Gould All rights reserved

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