by Omar Samad
Former Afghan Ambassador to France
Despite the recent repudiation of elections by the Afghan Taliban’s fugitive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, and despite the increased bloodshed experienced by Afghans this year, there is a growing public desire to see the election process move forward and a historic and peaceful transfer of power and legitimate order.
Signs of growing enthusiasm are not only detected among the political elites and interest groups, but also in civil society, youths and women groups, the private sector, rural community councils, and in the way new and traditional media are covering the issues.
If we assume that next year’s presidential and provincial elections will take place as planned, one of the main challenges that Afghanistan will face is security, and making sure that enough polling centers are open across the country to assure the viability of the exercise. Another test will be maintaining the positive momentum that is rising, investing as many Afghans as possible in the process, and making the vote as inclusive and transparent as possible.
This effort not only requires widespread public awareness programing, but also overcoming the public trust deficit that exists toward Afghan political and electoral institutions. Above all, it requires political will by the country’s leadership not to hinder the process or constitutional order.
Thus far, it appears that the newly formed Independent Election Commission (IEC), responsible for managing the elections, is making a sincere attempt to regain the public trust and avoid a repeat of the 2009 electoral debacle.
The head of the IEC, Yousuf Nuristani, in an in-depth interview with TOLOnews this week, conveyed several key points that give hope and are essential to the successful management of elections:
He assured the public that the IEC would remain impartial and independent. He stressed that the IEC would strictly follow its mandate. He acknowledged that mistakes were made in past elections and that he would not allow their repeat. He asked for dialogue and cooperation with all other stakeholders, including political parties and civil society to prevent fraud and irregularities. He proposed reforms that would allow for stronger monitoring and reduce fraud. He stressed his own credentials as a person who believes in the democratic process.
Nuristani has raised the bar for electoral oversight and now has to deal with three types of pressures:
The other IEC commissioners, most of whom have little experience in electoral technicalities and run the risk of being pressured by powerful political circles whose aim is to subvert the process. The Election Complaints Commission (ECC), a five-member body to be selected in the next few days, which will have the final say on complaints adjudication. It is critically important that the selection of ECC members is based on clear qualification criteria, void of ethnic or political bias. If the ECC is seen as either unqualified or prejudiced, then the overall process will unfold either before or after elections are held. To give it more weight, having civil society’s representative present in the selection committee is a must. Powerful political circles and individuals whose interests may lie with the cancellation or postponement of elections, violation of the constitution, or underhanded electoral fraud.
As Mullah Omar’s Eid message clearly indicated last week, any hope that may have existed for Taliban participation in the elections should be dashed. The message stipulated that not only do the radicals within their ranks continue to want to impose their will on the population through power-sharing deals with other ethnic groups, but that their supporters outside the country are leery of seeing a democratically elected government emerge in Afghanistan.
Contrary to the wish of most Afghans, the message also made it clear that the Taliban will go to any length to prevent a continued U.S./NATO presence, albeit small and for a non-combat role, in the country post 2014.
Another sign of forward-moving impetus in the country’s political life is its political dynamism. Political actors realize that time is not on their side, and they need to interact, form teams, and eventually build coalitions that could introduce candidates for the presidential election by early October, when the nomination process will be complete. Forming these teams and coalitions will not be easy unless some contenders are ready to lower their expectations of being at the top of a ticket, and instead focus on agreeing to work on common reform agendas.
To offset this political drive, Taliban diehards have and will continue to use psychological tactics, including the use of violence, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations, to dampen the enthusiasm that is emerging in the country. We have seen several troubling examples of such tactics lately with attacks on members of parliament and their families.
With a segment of society disinterested in the political ruckus, the Taliban are aiming to either draw them to their side or enlarge the pool of neutral observers, and by doing so undermine the 2014 elections.
It is now up to motivated political elites and institutions such as the IEC and ECC to build up the nascent momentum, counter the Taliban narrative, and rebuild the public trust through legitimate decisions and practices. The Afghan people, as well as the international community that has invested heavily since 2002, are watching. The country’s political actors cannot afford to lose either or both.
Omar Samad, Afghan ambassador to France 2009-2011, is currently Afghanistan senior expert in residence with the Center for Conflict Management at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
The Afghanistan Express
Hafiz, the great Sufi master, says:
Intelligence begin to rule
Whenever you sit with others
Using this sane idea:
Leave all your cocked guns in a field
Far from us.
One of those damn things
translated by Daniel Ladinsky
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
With a love like that,
It lights the
the great Sufi master
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run dear friend,
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Run like hell dear friend,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and
the great Sufi master
translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Afghanistan’s new Iliad
by Afghanistan’s new Homer
By Claudette Roulo, American Forces Press Service
August 15, 2013
WASHINGTON (Aug. 15, 2013) — Afghan security forces are in the lead and continue to grow in capacity and capability in the fight against the enemies of Afghanistan, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command-East said yesterday.
Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), as well as the commander of Regional Commmand-East, also told Pentagon reporters via satellite that even with the progress made by Afghanistan’s security forces they are likely to need U.S. support beyond 2014.
Afghan forces are winning, he said, but aren’t yet dominating the enemy in a way that takes away their will to fight. It will also take time before the Afghan air force is at full capacity, McConville said.
However, when the Afghan air force reaches full capacity, he said, the enemies of Afghanistan “are not going to be willing to continue the conflict.”
Meanwhile, ISAF’s draw down is progressing, McConville said. Since March, he noted, the number of coalition bases has declined from 58 to 17.
“We have moved into an advise-and-assist role,” said McConville. “Afghan security forces are in the lead [and] they are doing most of the fighting.”
Two Afghan army corps — the 201st and the 202nd — operate in Regional Command-East. Those units, McConville said, are currently conducting integrated operations involving ground troops with indirect-fire and air support.
“In fact, the 201st just did the largest air assault in recent Afghan history, with six Mi-17s and two Mi-35 [helicopters],” he said.
As Afghan forces have taken a higher-profile role in securing Afghanistan, the enemy is facing a propaganda problem, the general said.
“They used to be able to say that they were fighting foreign occupiers, and they can no longer really say that anymore because they’re fighting Afghan security forces and they’re fighting against the Afghan people,” he said.
There are only about two months left in the fighting season in Afghanistan, McConville said. And, with winter approaching and the holy month of Ramadan over, the general said he expects the enemy to come out fighting.
“We’re expecting a spike in violence,” he said. “We expect the enemies of the Afghan people to come out and try to achieve those objectives that they’ve not been able to achieve.”
Now is a critical time, McConville said.
“This is the first time that the Afghan security forces have been in the lead during the entire fighting season,” he said. “And they believe they’re winning, and I tend to agree with them.”
I loaned her a book
on Afghanistan & now
Steve gave her 40 dollars to
buy pizza & beer but
Taliban music instead
Since they locked-up the balconey
Steve has disappeared
I know where he went
And I know who sent him
it wasn’t God
She smiles like a
mountain lion dozing in
the sun while she hones
her legs for action
Everybody here believes
her smile is that of
a little girl hoarding candy
and that is all
But I know better than most
who she really is because
I’m the old man who
lives across the hall
She’s Taliban Anna
she has become the living
and terrible Jihad call!
She plays Taliban music
night & day as
loud as she wants
because I let her
I know better than to
get on the bad side
of Taliban Anna’s
field of blooming poppy flowers
The call of the wild is
cupcakes & kool-aid
compared to the howling
death chant of Taliban Anna
As it plays on her little
music box she occasionally trills
like a bird licking her wings
for this evening’s flight
I bury my daily routine deep
into the rhythmic beat
of Taliban Anna’s haunting
of the American soul…
poem by Rawclyde!
(Text: Copyright Clyde Collins 2013)
Pakistan has released its highest-ranking Afghan Taliban prisoner in an effort to jump-start Afghanistan’s struggling peace process.
The Afghan government has long demanded that Pakistan free Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s former deputy leader who was arrested in a joint raid with the CIA in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi in 2010.
Pakistani intelligence and security officials confirmed that he was freed on Saturday but did not provide any details, including where he had been held. Pakistan’s foreign ministry had announced earlier that Baradar would be released “to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process”.
Muhammad Ismail Qasimyar, a member of the Afghan government’s council for negotiating with the Taliban, praised Baradar’s release, saying: “We are very much hopeful that Mullah Baradar can play an important role in the peace process.”
Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, who served as foreign minister for the Taliban when the group ruled Afghanistan, also welcomed Bardar’s release and cautioned Pakistan not to try to control his movements now that he is free.
“They also have to allow him contact with Taliban leaders and for him to be useful for peace in Afghanistan,” Muttawakil said.
Pakistan has released at least 33 Taliban prisoners over the last year at the Afghan government’s request in an attempt to boost peace negotiations between the insurgents and Kabul.
But there is no sign that the previous releases have helped peace talks, and some of the prisoners are believed to have returned to the fight against the Afghan government. The US was reluctant to see Baradar released, believing he would also return to the battlefield.
Afghanistan has in the past called on Pakistan to release Taliban prisoners into its custody but they have instead been set free in Pakistan.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s foreign ministry, Janan Mosazai, has said Baradar must be “accessible, secure and with a known address” if he remains in Pakistan.
Afghan officials said Baradar had been arrested while he was holding secret peace talks with the Afghan government, and accused Pakistan of arresting him to sabotage or gain control of the process. Others said the US was the driving force behind his arrest.
Pakistan is a key player in Afghan peace talks because of its historical ties to the Taliban. Islamabad helped the Taliban seize control of Afghanistan in 1996 and is widely believed to have maintained ties with the group, despite official denials.
But there is also significant distrust between the two, and Pakistan has arrested dozens of Taliban members in the years following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The most recent attempt to push forward peace negotiations foundered in June in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which is a fleshy little ganglia attached to Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf…
Doha, capital of Qatar, Persian Gulf
An excerpt from the very first short novel I wrote when I was 23 years old:
The Duck Of Freedom
While Frank, the cop, was with his fists n’ boots mutilating his comrade in arms ~
A white duck, lost, and in love with being lost, and loving freedom too, without a back pack but with a quack quack was waddling along the highway side. The duck’s beady eyes, which were stinging the scenery every which way, caught sight of the steel chain around Tulip’s ankle. He kind of grunted, like some ducks do, waddled up and quacked the chain into little pieces.
After he did this, Tulip rubbed her raw but now gratefully free ankle with her hand, and very pleased, told him, “Thank you, Mr. Duck.”
The duck ducked his head as if dodging this acknowledgment by Tulip and in his best English replied, “I’m a goose.”
But he was really a duck ~ and waddled away, quacking.
This happening created a supplementary addition to Tulip’s beliefs. She now believed in miracles.
“Quack! Quack!” she cried joyously to the retreating white speck out yonder as it disappeared around the highway bend…
a story about freedom
“What are YOU doing here?”