Shrapnel From Afghanistan II

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Historic Shrapnel #9

The presence of international forces and outside aid had ended the civil war.  Millions of refugees had rapidly returned from exile in Iran and Pakistan.  A political process for creating and ratifying a constitution had run smoothly, allowing the popular election of a national leader, Hamid Karzai, for the first time in Afghan history.  On the other hand, the military and financial resources allocated to the country were grossly inadequate to provide security and improve one of the world’s lowest standards of living.  The large sums of money pledged for reconstruction first raised the expectations of ordinary Afghans to unreasonable levels, but as the years passed people had a right to be disappointed by how little was being accomplished at such great expense.  Worse, project priorities were set by the funders, not the Afghans, so they rightly questioned the wisdom of building schools and hospitals without teachers and doctors to staff them, or repairing roads with foreign labor while local people remained unemployed…

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Historic Shrapnel #10

The high point of the constitutional process came with the successful presidential election in October 2004.  While there had been parliamentary elections in the past, this was the first time in Afghan history that a national leader had ever sought electoral approval.  Karzai was therefore keen to see elections held quickly once the constitution had been approved despite the concerns of international critics, who doubted the ability of the Afghans to organize the balloting and feared that the elections would be marred by violence.  The Afghan people instead seemed genuinely motivated by the election process and turned out in large numbers, including a relatively high participation by women.  Opponents of the Karzai regime, including the Taliban, failed to disrupt the process, in part because it had such popular support.  Despite many irregularities the election was deemed relatively fair…

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excerpts from the book

Afghanistan

A Cultural and Political History

by Thomas Barfield

2010

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Historic Shrapnel #11

The U.S invasion that expelled the Taliban and al Qaeda from Afghanistan created an odd circumstance in its wake.  The usual priority among the Afghans of expelling foreign invaders was replaced by a tacit strategy of keeping them there to guarantee security and finance the development of the country.  This was because the Afghan population was looking for stability after decades of war and protection against predation by factions within Afghanistan as well as from neighbors seeking to exploit its weaknesses…

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Historic Shrapnel #12

The new NATO command would take responsibility for all of Afghanistan except for the east, where the United States would retain direct control…

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Historic Shrapnel #13

 Later in the summer, British and Canadian troops deployed to Helmand and Qandahar confronted a well-armed and full-blown insurgency led by a reinvigorated Taliban…

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U.S. Army outpost

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Historic Shrapnel #14

There was also trouble in eastern Afghanistan, which experienced a sharp rise in cross-border attacks from Pakistan’s autonomous tribal territories, where al Queda and Taliban forces were becoming dominant…

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U.S. Army outpost

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Historic Shrapnel #15

Indeed, the strongest base for Islamists inside eastern Afghanistan was not among the Pashtuns but instead among the more remote Nuristanis in the high mountains northwest of Jalalabad…

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A foreign presence in Afghanistan

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Historic Shrapnel #16

Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami was the best known of those factions opposing a foreign presence in Afghanistan.  It was most influential in the provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar, and Nuristan.  The lack of early U.S. resistance to Hekmatyar allowed Hizb-i-Islami forces to take control of many villages in mountainous Nuristan, where they linked up with al Qaeda forces on the Pakistan side of the border.  Despite Hekmatyar’s radical rhetoric, some members of his party joined the Kabul government, and Hekmatyar hinted at a willingness to cooperate if Karzai ceded enough power to him.  A more radical insurgency based on Pastun tribal networks arose further to the south in the provinces of Paktia, Paktika, and Khost that straddled the frontier with Pakistan’s FATA.  Commanded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a prominent resistance commander against the Soviets, its greatest influence was among the resident Pashtun tribes, particularly Haqqani’s own Zadran people in Afghanistan and FATA’s north Waziristan, where he had his headquarters.  Hazzani’s influence extended well beyond the frontier.  His network orchestrated the majority of terrorist attacks in Kabul itself (at the behest of Pakistan’s ISI, according to the Afghans).  His faction also included many foreign fighters and was closer to al Qaeda than Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami…

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Historic Shrapnel #17

The largest and most intense insurgency was centered in Qandahar and Helmand provinces, and led by Mullah Omar’s Taliban…

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Historic Shrapnel #18

The absence of any earlier economic development left the region dependent on an illicit opium economy.  This provided the Taliban with a revenue source to tax and gave them allies among those benefiting from the illicit trade.  In the absence of any significant international military presence, the Taliban were able to regroup unimpeded in any area they knew well for at least two years before NATO troops were deployed to confront them…

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Historic Shrapnel #19

While the Musharif government proved willing to hunt down foreign al Qaeda members, Pakistan still saw the Taliban as allies, and had not abandoned its goal of controlling Afghanistan through a Taliban regime or faction in the Afghan govern- ment when the United States withdrew…

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