India PM Inaugurates Parliament House

New Afghan Parliament House donated by the people of India…


by Koushik Das

InSerbia Network News

Dec. 26, 2015


On his way back to India from Russia, Prime Minister Modi arrived in the Afghan capital to inaugurate the new Parliament House. Upon his arrival in Kabul, the visiting premier received a warm welcome, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was present at the airport. Before inaugurating the new House, Modi and Ghani held delegation-level talks at the Afghan Presidential Office, popularly known as Dilkosha Palace, to discuss different aspects of bilateral ties. Later, Prime Minister Modi addressed the Afghan Parliament.

The Indian premier said it was unfortunate that the construction work of the Parliament building, which was started in 2009, missed three completion deadlines since 2011 and went over-budget by double the original costing of USD 45 million. Meanwhile, he assured the Afghan parliamentarians that India would always back the war-ravaged country’s effort to ensure peace. At the same time, he said that Afghanistan “will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border”. The PM told the House: “We must support Afghanistan without timelines because a new cloud of extremism is rising, even as the old ones continue to darken our skies.”

Prime Minister Modi also sent a strong message to Pakistan that is often accused by Afghanistan of sponsoring the Taliban insurgency, saying: “There are some who did not want us to be here. There were those who saw sinister design in our presence here. But we are here because you had faith in us.”

Modi further assured Afghanistan that India, which has invested around USD 2 billion in aid and reconstruction in the country and trained scores of Afghan officers, would continue providing financial helps to Afghanistan in the coming years. Addressing the Parliament, he announced 500 scholarships for children of martyrs of Afghan armed forces. “Afghanistan with abiding faith in tradition of Jirga has chosen democracy against challenges that would have defeated lesser people,” he told the House.

For his part, President Ghani called the friendship between India and Afghanistan “antiquated and bound by a thousand ties”, stressing that Kabul would always be grateful to New Delhi for its “valuable assistance” as his country weathers “hard times”. “I am pleased to welcome Prime Minister Modi to Kabul. Though, India and Afghanistan need no introduction, we are bound by a thousand ties. We have stood by each other in the best and worst of times,” added the Afghan president.

Later, the Indian PM also held separate talks with Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai. Incidentally, Modi arrived in Kabul just a couple of days after India delivered three of four Russian Mi-25 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan.

On Friday evening, the Indian PM also made a surprise visit to Pakistan. After landing in Kabul from Moscow, Modi called his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to wish him Happy Birthday. Sharif told Modi: “Why don’t you drop by since you will be flying over my country?” Modi readily agreed and reached Lahore at around 5pm (local time). At the airport, the Indian premier was received by Prime Minister Sharif with a warm hug. They took a helicopter to reach Sharif’s ancestral home “Raiwind Palace” in Jati Umra, where his granddaughter’s wedding was on. The two PMs discussed different bilateral issues and agreed to continue and enhance contacts, and work together to establish good neighbourly relations. After spending one hour at Sharif’s residence, Modi left for India and reached New Delhi at 7:30pm (local time). Prime Minister Sharif, too, accompanied Modi back to the Lahore airport to see him off.

Upon his arrival in New Delhi, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “Spent a warm evening with Sharif family home. Nawaz Sahab’s birthday and his granddaughter’s marriage made it a double celebration”. Apart from Premier Sharif, two big leaders from both countries had their birthday on December 25. Tenth Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was born on December 25, 1924 in Gwalior, while Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was born on December 25, 1876. Jinnah, the lawyer-turned-politician, died on September 11, 1948.

Different Pakistani political parties have welcomed Modi’s surprise visit, as he, in a dramatically spontaneous gesture, becomes the first Indian PM to visit Pakistan since Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2014. However, the Indian opposition parties have raised a serious question – Can Modi’s unorthodox brand of diplomacy lead to lasting peace? We have to wait to see how surprise plays its role in Prime Minister Modi’s Pakistan policy.




Al Qaeda Not Neutralized


by Bill Roggio & Thomas Joscelyn

The Long War Journal

November 20, 2015


Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Weekly Standard


Secretary of State John Kerry believes that al Qaeda’s “top leadership” has been “neutralized” as “an effective force.” He made the claim while discussing the administration’s strategy, or lack thereof, for combating the Islamic State, which is al Qaeda’s jihadist rival. Kerry believes that the US. and its allies can finish off the Islamic State quicker than al Qaeda. There’s just one problem: It is not true that al Qaeda or its top leaders have been “neutralize[d].”

Dozens of senior al Qaeda terrorists, including of course Osama bin Laden, have been eliminated. But al Qaeda is not a simple top-down terrorist group that can be entirely vanquished by killing or detaining select key leaders. It is a paramilitary insurgency organization that is principally built for waging guerilla warfare. Terrorism is a part of what al Qaeda does, but not nearly all. And a key reason why al Qaeda has been able to regenerate its threat against us repeatedly over the past 14 years is that it uses its guerilla armies to groom new leaders and identify recruits for terrorist plots against the West.

The summary below shows what al Qaeda looks like today – it is far from being “neutralize[d].” Instead, al Qaeda and its regional branches are fighting in more countries today than ever. They are trying to build radical Islamic states, just like ISIS, which garners more attention but hasn’t, contrary to conventional wisdom, surpassed al Qaeda in many areas.

In Afghanistan, al Qaeda remains closely allied with the Taliban and is participating in the Taliban-led insurgency’s advances throughout the country. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has sworn allegiance to the Taliban’s new emir, Mullah Mansour, who publicly accepted Zawahiri’s oath of loyalty in August. Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters are playing a key role in the Taliban’s offensive, with the Taliban-al Qaeda axis overrunning approximately 40 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts this year alone. This is part of the reason that President Obama decided to leave a small contingent of American forces in Afghanistan past his term in office.

To give you a sense of what al Qaeda is really doing in Afghanistan, consider that U.S. forces led raids against two large training facilities in the country’s south in October. One of the camps was approximately 30 square miles in size. Gen. John F. Campbell, who oversees the war effort in Afghanistan, explained that the camp was run by al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and is “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

Think about that: U.S. officials just discovered what is probably the largest al Qaeda camp since 2001. Al Qaeda hasn’t been neutralized in Afghanistan. In fact, numerous al Qaeda leaders have relocated into the country.

AQIS, which answers to Zawahiri, was established in September 2014 and is exporting terrorism throughout the region. The group has claimed attacks in Pakistan and Bangladesh. And al Qaeda is still allied with Pakistan’s many jihadist groups, which frequently carry out operations, especially in the northern part of the country.

In Syria, Al Nusrah Front, which is openly loyal to Zawahiri, is deeply enmeshed in the anti-Assad insurgency. It is such an effective fighting force that it disrupted the Pentagon’s $500 million train and equip program multiple times this year, leading the Obama administration to cancel it. Multiple senior al Qaeda leaders have relocated to Syria since 2011 and they are guiding Al Nusrah’s efforts. In addition, some of these leaders work for what is known as the “Khorasan Group,” which has been planning attacks against the West. In September 2014, the administration began targeting the Khorasan Group with airstrikes. Some top figures in this al Qaeda subunit have been taken out, but others have survived thus far. Even so, al Qaeda has thousands of fighters in Syria today. And Al Nusrah Front jointly leads a coalition known as Jaysh al Fath (“Army of Conquest”), which took substantial territory from Bashar al Assad’s regime earlier this year.

In Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operates a prolific insurgency and has gobbled up territory, particularly in the country’s south. The U.S. has killed several senior AQAP officials this year, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from taking advantage of the Houthis’ surge and the Gulf states’ intervention. The AQAP leaders who replaced those killed in U.S. drone strikes since January are al Qaeda veterans and answer to Zawahiri. AQAP has also threatened the U.S. on multiple occasions, including the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing and other plots.

Across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, in Somalia, Shabaab remains one of the most prolific jihadist organizations on the planet. It, too, does not hide its fealty to Zawahiri. Thousands of Shabaab fighters battle African forces regularly and still control significant territory. Shabaab is most infamous these days for its high-profile massacres in Kenya, such as at the Westgate mall in 2013 and Garissa University College earlier this year. Shabaab has a long history of exporting terrorism throughout East Africa, where it is attempting to build a radical Islamic nation on behalf of al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated groups remain a potent force in North and West Africa. Groups such Ansar al Sharia, Ansar Dine and others all operate within AQIM’s orbit and are regularly engaged in heavy fighting against their opponents.

Al Murabitoon, led by Mohkthar Belmokhtar, is another al Qaeda group that operates in North and West Africa. Belmokhtar, a former AQIM commander, is a Zawahiri loyalist. His group has reportedly claimed responsibility for a hotel siege in Mali earlier today.

To this brief sketch we can add a number of al Qaeda-affiliated organizations around the globe. But the point is that al Qaeda has a guerilla army totaling tens of thousands of fighters across a large geographic expanse.

AQIS, AQAP, AQIM, Al Nusrah Front, Shabaab – these are al Qaeda’s regional branches. Each of them is fighting to implement al Qaeda-style sharia law in its designated region. All of them are part of Zawahiri’s organization. They have not been “neutralize[d].”

Al Qaeda realized long ago that this is a generational war, and the next generation of leaders are fighting in several countries today. The US government still doesn’t get it.


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.



To Thwart The Jihadist Insurgents

I would love to see Sufism in Afghanistan & Hinduism in India get a choke hold on the Wahhabi Movement in Pakistan & kill it.  Peace would be more likely in the region.  This is what I would most cherish after researching, reporting on, and poetically allying myself with Afghanistan for about a year now.

Most of the Christians out of the United States & Europe are getting out of the way & going home.  The Afghan National Army & Police & citizens of Afghanistan stay.  They stay & fight for their freedom & fledgling democracy.  They fight the Wahhabi-tainted & intolerant Taliban.  What’s going to take place in Afghanistan now will be, to say the very least, interesting ~ and, alas, bloody.

The religious connotations of the ongoing Afghanistan War, I believe, cannot be denied.  I believe matters of spirituality cannot be denied anywhere.  But I’ve never been to war as an individual, just a citizen of a nation gone to war.  Being an American, this is a common thing for my countrymen & me.

It will be nice ~ when the Taliban succumb to the efforts for peace & become monks somewhat like they were originally.  I’m sure most people don’t believe this will happen.  But I pray.

Old Timer Chronicle II, this blog, has been covering the Afghanistan War for a wee bit more than a year, from September, 2013, to October, 2014. Some research of the war’s earlier years has been included.  Sufism, a version of Islam popular amongst Afghans, is explored & Hinduism, out of India, is touched upon.  Some of St. Paul’s work represents Christianity on this blog.  Wahhabism, a blood-thirsty perversion of Islam,  can be explored on a link or two.  My favorite TV news commentators, Alex Wagner & Harris Faulkner, dropped by a few times via my shenanigans.

Today Old Timer Chronicle II has 90 subscribers.  It was removed from the forum some time ago.  By whom?  Why?  Maybe the NSA is doing its job protecting U.S. citizens, like myself, from blood-letting Jihadists.

Also, I wrote a narrative verse that consists of forty episodes entitled “Afghaneeland” in this issue of the Old Timer.  I’ve promoted it as Afghanistan’s new Iliad.  That makes me the Homer of Afghanistan.  Ain’t that somethin’?  I’ve never been there.

Among the characters that evolved out of my poetical efforts on this blog, thrives the young Afghan woman, Mamoodia.  She’s an idealistic, unrealistic, but promising, beautiful character, evolved out of Nuristan province.  Now she endures in the world of literature ~ to thwart unscrupulous Taliban ~ forever!


Young Afghan Mamoodia pulls an arrow out of her quiver



Yours truly



Congratulations From India


Oct 18, 2014


New Delhi, Oct 18 — Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, Saturday said Afghanistan had achieved “huge” progress under its former president Hamid Karzai and congratulated him for the formation of the new national unity government in that country.

Modi, who spoke with Karzai over phone, congratulated the former Afghan president for his leadership in ensuring a historic and peaceful political transition and formation of a national unity government in Afghanistan.

“This would not have been possible without the wisdom, courage and foresight of Karzai,” he said.

The prime minister noted that under Karzai, Afghanistan had achieved huge progress in its quest to build a strong, peaceful, inclusive, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, an official release said here.

He also warmly recalled Karzai’s contribution to the strengthening of India-Afghanistan relations, the release said.

He said that both India and Afghanistan had new governments in place which look to Karzai as a mentor for guidance in furtherance of bilateral relations.

Karzai, on his part, said that he deeply cherished his long association with India. “No other country in the world had done as much for Afghanistan as India had despite constraints of resources”.

The former Afghan president said he was confident that the new government in Afghanistan will continue to attach the highest priority to strengthening ties with India.



Women In The Infantry


Strategy Page

October 17, 2014


October 17, 2014: After two years of trying to justify allowing women into the infantry, artillery and armor and special operations forces, the U.S. government has decided to just order the military to make it happen and without degrading the capabilities of these units. While the army is inclined the just say yes, find out what quotas the politicians want and go through the motions, the marines are refusing to play along. The marines are pointing out that the research does not support the political demands and that actually implementing the quotas could get people killed while degrading the effectiveness of the units involved. This is yet another reason why many politicians do not like the marines.

Back in 2012 the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were ordered to come up with procedures to select women capable of handling infantry and special operations assignments and then recruit some women for these jobs. This had become an obsession with many politicians. None of these proponents of women in the infantry have ever served in the infantry, but they understood that if they proceeded without proof that women could handle the job, that decision could mean getting a lot of American soldiers and marines killed. If it came to that, the military could be blamed for not implementing the new policy correctly.

So far the tests, overseen by monitors reporting back to civilian officials in Congress and the White House, have failed to find the needed proof that women can handle infantry combat. The main problem the military has is their inability to make these politicians understand how combat operations actually work and what role sheer muscle plays in success, or simply survival. But many politicians have become obsessed with the idea that women should serve in the infantry and are ignoring the evidence.

All this comes after decades of allowing women to take jobs that were more and more likely to result in women having to deal with combat. Not infantry combat, but definitely dangerous situations where you were under attack and had to fight back or die. The last such prohibition is the U.S. Department of Defense policy that forbids the use of female troops in direct (infantry type) combat. Despite the ban many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan found themselves in firefights and exposed to roadside bombs, something that’s normal for a combat zone. Meanwhile, women were allowed to serve in MP (military police) units and serve regularly on convoy duty. Those convoys often included other female troops who were trained to fight back, if necessary. It was usually the MPs who did the fighting and the female MPs performed well. Several of them received medals for exceptional performance in combat. Hundreds of these female MPs were regularly in combat since September 11, 2001. This was the largest and longest exposure of American female troops to direct combat. Yet women have often been exposed to a lot of indirect combat. As far back as World War II, 25 percent of all troops in the army found themselves under fire at one time or another, although only about 15 percent of soldiers had a “direct combat” job. In Iraq women made up about 14 percent of the military personnel but only two percent of the casualties (dead and wounded). Most women do not want to be in combat but those who did get the job proved that they could handle it. This experience, however, did provide proof that women could perform in infantry or special operations type combat.

All this is actually an ancient problem. The issue of women in combat has long been contentious. Throughout history women have performed well in combat but mainly in situations where pure physical force was not a major factor. For example, women often played a large, and often decisive, part of the defending force in sieges. Many women learned to use the light bow (for hunting). While not as lethal as the heavy bows (like the English longbow), when the situation got desperate the female archers made a difference, especially if it was shooting a guys coming over the wall with rape and general mayhem in mind.

Once lightweight firearms appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries women were even deadlier in combat. Again, this only occurred in combat situations where the superior physical strength and sturdiness of men was not a factor. Much of infantry operations are all about the grunts (as infantry are often called) just moving themselves and their heavy loads into position for a fight. Here the sturdiness angle was all about the fact that men have more muscle and thicker bones. This makes men much less likely to suffer stress fractures or musculoskeletal injuries than women. This phenomenon has been noted as women became more active in sports like basketball. Modern infantry combat is intensely physical, and most women remain at a disadvantage here. There are some exception for specialist tasks that do not involve sturdiness or strength, like sniping. Then there is the hormonal angle. Men generate a lot more testosterone, a hormone that makes men more decisive and faster to act in combat. Moreover testosterone does not, as the popular myth goes, make you more aggressive, it does make you more aware and decisive. That makes a difference in combat.

The main problem today is that the average load for a combat infantryman is over 40 kg (88 pounds) and men (in general) have always had more muscle, upper body strength and the ability to handle heavy loads better than women. But in situations like convoy escort, base security, or support jobs in the combat zone the combat load is lower and more manageable for women. At that point there’s plenty of recent evidence that women can handle themselves in combat. That said, women, more than men, prefer to avoid serving in combat units. During the last decade American recruiters found it easier to find young men for combat units than for support jobs. It’s mainly female officers who demand the right to try out for combat jobs. That’s because the most of the senior jobs in the military go only to those who have some experience in a combat unit. But when the marines allowed 14 female marines to take the infantry officer course, none could pass and all agreed that they were treated just like the male trainees. This was not a unique situation.

Because of the strenuous nature of combat jobs (armor, artillery, and engineers, as well as infantry) there are physical standards for these occupations. The U.S. military calls it a profile and if you do not have the physical profile for a job, you can’t have it. Thus while many men are not physically fit for the infantry, even fewer women are. For example, 55 percent of women cannot do the three pull-ups required in the physical fitness test, compared to only one percent of men. Some women could meet the physical standards and be eager to have the job. But Western nations (including Canada) that have sought to recruit physically qualified female candidates for the infantry found few volunteers and even fewer who could meet the profile and pass the training. So while it is theoretically possible that there are some women out there who could handle the physical requirements, none have so far come forward to volunteer for infantry duty. A recent survey of female soldiers in the U.S. Army found that over 92 percent would not be interested in having an infantry job. The last two years of American research into the matter concluded that about three percent of women could be trained to the point where they were at the low end of the physically “qualified” people (male or female) for infantry combat. What that bit of data ignores is how many of those physically strong women would want a career in the infantry or special operations. There would be a few, but for the politicians who want women represented in infantry units this would smack of tokenism. Moreover this comes at a time when physical standards for American infantry and special operations troops have been increasing, because this was found to produce more effective troops and lower American casualties.

One area where women are sometimes recruited for infantry combat is in commando and paramilitary intelligence organizations. This is kept secret but having a combat-qualified woman along on some missions can be the key to success. While these women usually cannot carry as much weight, they often have language, cultural, and other skills that make them an essential part of the team. Exceptions can be made for exceptional people and the exceptional missions where they can be decisive. Women have long served as spies, and this is apparently how women came to become part of some commando organizations.

When the U.S. used conscription the infantry ended up with a lot of less-muscular and enthusiastic men in the infantry. Allowances were made for this, but for elite units there were no corners cut and everyone had to volunteer and meet high physical standards. That made a very noticeable difference in the combat abilities of the elite unit. Now all infantry are recruited to those old elite standards and it would wreck morale and decrease the number of male volunteers if it was mandated that some less physically qualified women be able to join infantry units. This doesn’t bother a lot of politicians but it does bother the guys out there getting shot at.

Meanwhile over the last century women have been increasingly a part of the military. In most Western nations over ten percent of military personnel are female. In the U.S. military it’s now 15 percent. A century ago it was under one percent (and most of those were nurses and other medical personnel). More women are in uniform now because there aren’t enough qualified men, especially for many of the technical jobs armed forces now have to deal with. In the United States women became more of a presence in the armed forces after the military went all-volunteer in the 1970s. That led to more and more combat-support jobs being opened to women. This became popular within the military because the women were often better at these support jobs. This led to women being allowed to serve on American combat ships in 1994. In most NATO countries between 5-10 percent of sailors are women, while in Britain it is 10 percent, and in the United States 16 percent.

Once women were allowed to fly combat aircraft, it was only a matter of time before some of them rose to command positions. Currently, about ten percent of navy officers are female, as are nine percent of enlisted personnel. Only 4.2 percent of navy aviators (pilots) are women, as are 6.9 percent of flight officers (non-pilot aircrew). In the air force five percent of pilots are women. Women now command warships and air combat units (including fighter squadrons). Some women, and their political supporters, want to do the same thing in the infantry and special operations. If only the physical problems could be taken care of.

Advocates for women in combat also have to worry about combat casualties and the very well documented history of women in combat. During World War II over five million women served in the military, although they suffered fewer losses than the men, several hundred thousand did die. These women were often exposed to combat, especially when fighting as guerillas or operating anti-aircraft guns and early warning systems in Russia, Germany, and Britain. Russia also used women as traffic cops near the front line, as snipers, and as combat pilots. They tried using them as tank crews and regular infantry, but that didn’t work out. Women were most frequently employed in medical and other support jobs. The few who served as snipers or pilots were very good at it.

Most of the women who served in combat did so in guerilla units, especially in the Balkans and Russia. The women could not haul as heavy a load as the men but this was often not crucial, as many guerillas were only part-time fighters, living as civilians most of the time. Full time guerilla units often imposed the death penalty for pregnancy, although the women sometimes would not name the father. That said, guerilla organizations often imposed the death penalty for a number of offenses. The guerillas had few places to keep prisoners and sloppiness could get a lot of guerillas killed. The women tended to be more disciplined than the men and just as resolute in combat.

In the last century there have been several attempts to use women in combat units, and all have failed. When given a choice, far fewer women will choose combat jobs (infantry, armor, artillery). But duty as MPs does attract a lot of women, as do jobs like fighter, bomber, helicopter pilots and crews, and aboard warships. That works.

Meanwhile the casualty rate for women in Iraq was over ten times what it was in World War II, Vietnam, and the 1991 Gulf War (where 30,000 women served). A lot of the combat operations experienced by women in Iraq involved base security or guard duty. Female troops performed well in that. These were jobs that required alertness, attention to detail, and ability to quickly use your weapons when needed. Carrying a heavy load was not required. In convoy operations women have also done well, especially when it comes to spotting, and dealing with, IEDs (roadside bombs and ambushes). Going into the 21st century, warfare is becoming more automated and less dependent on muscle and testosterone. That gives women an edge, and they exploit it, just as they have done in so many other fields.

Meanwhile the military has been ordered to continue conducting experiments in order to find a way to justify allowing females in the infantry and special operations troops. After that comes the difficulty in finding women who are willing to volunteer and pass whatever standards survive.


“One Step Closer” by Nigel Hendrickson


Afghan Citizens Pay The Price


by Josh Smith

Stars & Stripes

October 18, 2014


LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — Mohammad Wazir is 12. Or maybe 13. He doesn’t know for sure.

One thing is certain: Growing up in rural Helmand province, Mohammad has seen more war than anyone should, let alone a young boy.

So when a firefight broke out between the Taliban and Afghan forces in July, Mohammad knew the drill: He and his family fled. When they returned, however, they found that the Taliban had turned their farm into a fighting position, complete with foxholes dug inside the home.

A curious Mohammad jumped into one of the holes, and his world exploded.

The insurgents had planted a bomb. When it went off, shrapnel sliced through his legs.

Mohammad’s brother found him bleeding and unconscious. The family rushed him to an Afghan National Army base for first aid, and then on to a hospital in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, an hour and a half drive along dangerous roads to the south.

Mohammad is among the growing number of noncombatants paying the price for the continuing insecurity in Afghanistan. After more than a decade of international military involvement, the NATO-led coalition is departing, but that hasn’t coincided with a drop in violence. With NATO combat troops leaving by the end of the year, civilian casualties are up 15 percent from last year, according to the United Nations. The rising tide of civilian deaths and injuries may become one of the lasting legacies of the unfinished war in Afghanistan.

NATO troops will be leaving behind thousands of Afghans like Mohammad, maimed by a war over which they had little control, condemned to suffer long after foreign forces depart.

When I met Mohammad, he had put his crutches aside and was sitting in a compound in Lashkar Gah, surrounded by other Afghans displaced by fierce fighting that consumed Sangin district for much of the summer and into the fall.

A young man with just the first wisps of a mustache cradled a Kalashnikov rifle as he guarded the compound’s door. Seated cross-legged on a well-worn carpet inside, the men and boys sipped cups of green tea sweetened with candy lemon drops as they told their stories.

Shamsullah Sarayee, an Alokozay tribal leader from Sangin, had arranged the gathering. Just a month earlier, four members of his family, including two children, had been killed when their van hit a roadside bomb. Four more family members in the vehicle were injured.

Gul Janan, an older man of unknown age, lost much of his left leg when he returned home only to step on a mine planted in his living room. Without hesitation, he showed the purplish stump that protruded a few inches below his knee.

A lean, weathered man with a wavy white beard, Mohammed Dawoud was shot twice in the arm and once in the torso when a firefight broke out on his farm. “I couldn’t get out of the way of the bullets,” he said. “What was I to do? I was not safe in my own field. We are not safe anywhere.”

According to the U.N., the number of civilian casualties caused by violence in Afghanistan is at an all-time high. In the first eight months of 2014, 2,312 civilians were killed and 4,533 injured, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year, Jan Kubis, the U.N. representative in Afghanistan, told the U.N. Security Council in September. The first six months of the year saw a 24 percent increase.

EMERGENCY, an Italy-based medical aid organization, says it is treating “staggering” numbers of patients with war wounds at its Kabul surgical center — more than 10 per day in July.

“The situation is getting worse day by day,” EMERGENCY officials said in a statement. “Our hospitals are full and our ambulances keep going back and forth, ferrying the injured from the various first aid posts scattered around the country.”

Among the hardest hit in the latest escalation of violence are women, as well as children like Mohammad. In its last comprehensive report, released in July, the U.N. found that the “devastating” levels of violence during the first half of the year had left 295 children dead and 776 injured, a 34 percent spike over the same period in 2013.

Mohammad was relatively lucky. He’ll walk again.

As we talked, the flies buzzed around the scabs that peeked out on both sides of the cast encasing one of his skinny legs. That didn’t stop a shy, half-smile from creeping onto his face as he talked of his dreams for the future.

“I want to go to school to be a doctor,” he said, “and help people like they helped me.”

But as the insurgency drags on, more children are dying violently. And with them their dreams.

Defining success

Adorned with row upon row of campaign ribbons, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal sat before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington. It was June 2, 2009, and the general, a longtime veteran of the American special operations community, had been tapped by President Barack Obama to be the top commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

“Although I expect stiff fighting ahead, the measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed,” he said, looking up from his notes and peering at the lawmakers through his wire-rim glasses for emphasis. “It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence.”

During McChrystal’s tenure as ISAF commander, civilian deaths caused by coalition forces reached a crisis point. Seeing it as a threat to the international effort, McChrystal imposed new rules that led to a 28 percent reduction in such casualties caused by American, NATO and Afghan forces, according to the U.N.

Those rules weren’t always popular with ISAF troops, especially those who felt they had lost comrades because of the restrictions placed on airstrikes and other tactics that could threaten civilians.

But the combination of new policies and a significant reduction in foreign forces’ involvement in combat operations has led to a further decrease in the number of civilians killed or injured by foreign troops. The U.N. says international forces accounted for just 1 percent of the most recent casualties, a decline attributed largely to the reduction in airstrikes.

As bitter fighting continues between insurgents and Afghan forces, however, the growing number of civilians in hospital beds and morgues is casting doubt on the Afghan government’s ability to protect its citizens, even as Afghan national security forces prepare to take charge of all of the country’s security.

Five years after that Senate confirmation hearing, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend paused when asked how ISAF’s work here measured against McChrystal’s definition of success.

Gazing out the open door of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on its way to the air field in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Townsend studied the vast area of Afghanistan for which he’s responsible as commander of ISAF’s Regional Command-East.

“I disagree a bit with the premise of the question, because that’s not really how I define success,” he said over the chopper’s intercom. “Our goals are a competent and confident ANSF.”

Civilian casualties aren’t something he officially tracks in his capacity as a commander in one of the most violent regions of Afghanistan, Townsend said. “What we’re trying to shoot for is an ANSF that can secure the country.”

But aren’t rising civilian casualties a measure of the Afghan forces’ ability to secure their country?

“That probably has something to say about their competency, yes,” he acknowledged. “But in no country in the world can security forces protect all civilians all the time. It does call into question their abilities; but at the same time, I think they can do it.”

A poster in a conference room at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad outlines the coalition’s view of “what winning looks like.” It’s a lengthy list that includes goals such as eliminating the country as an al-Qaida safe haven, encouraging a constructive relationship between the Afghan and Pakistani militaries, and creating a security force “capable of protecting and securing a legitimate Afghan government.”

There’s no mention of protecting and securing Afghan citizens, although the list does envision an “endstate” with “conditions set for the Afghan people to exploit the decade of opportunity/transformation” that ISAF believes it has provided.

“Protecting the population is the bedrock of [counterinsurgency] policy, and according to the best measures we have, the population is not being protected,” said Graeme Smith, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Kabul. “The sad reality is that this war continues to intensify and is poised to take a heavy toll on the civilian population.”

A sensitive history

Civilian casualties caused by coalition forces — as well as by U.S. forces who sometimes operated outside of ISAF, such as special operations troops on counterterrorism missions — were a hot-button issue throughout the international military intervention.

In a report released in August, Amnesty International detailed 10 cases in which it says airstrikes, night raids and drone attacks against civilians were not fully investigated by ISAF, if at all. The human-rights watchdog singled out two cases in which it said the military is not urgently investigating evidence that strongly suggests war crimes were committed — including kidnapping, torture and execution.

“It’s an issue that creates a lot of resentment,” said Joanne Mariner, one of the report’s authors. “Special forces especially have a particularly bad track record that they’re leaving for Afghanistan.”

One of the most egregious cases cited by Mariner involved allegations that U.S. special operations troops and their Afghan allies were involved in the torture and murder of local residents.

In a secret 2009 cable published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, State Department officials warned that civilian casualties, among other controversial issues, including night raids, would be a barrier to better Afghan-U.S. relations until they were addressed.

Now, even critics such as Mariner say the coalition made strides since then by implementing policies to reduce noncombatant casualties, and by establishing more appropriate compensation.

In 2008, ISAF established a Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell, “the first large-scale tracking of data on civilian harm by a warring party,” according to a report by the Center for Civilians in Conflict. That later became part of a Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team.

According to the report, as of January the CCMT had been downsized, while the remaining members of the team focused on helping the Afghan forces with their mitigation policies. ISAF says it still tracks the number of civilians injured or killed around the country and that its numbers “are consistent” with those released by the U.N.

Former President Hamid Karzai was quick to call attention to incidents in which civilians were hurt by coalition forces. Although the number of coalition-related casualties has dwindled, however, Karzai’s concerns over such incidents did not disappear. Citing concern over potential atrocities, for example, he refused to sign an agreement with the United States laying out the terms for a continued U.S. presence last year, in part because it gave future U.S. troops in Afghanistan immunity from local prosecution. His successor, Ashraf Ghani, signed it the day after his Sept. 29 inauguration.

Now, though, the decline in casualties caused by the coalition has been more than offset by a major increase in casualties attributed to the range of anti-government insurgent groups, the largest among them being the Taliban.

The U.N. said nearly 75 percent of noncombatant casualties in the first half of 2013 were directly caused by anti-government groups, including 147 attacks claimed by the Taliban that killed 234 civilians and left 319 injured.

Human-rights officials say the focus now is on getting the Taliban and other groups to change their tactics to protect civilians.

For their part, the Taliban reject the U.N.’s estimates as “propaganda of the enemy.”

“As we have seen clearly during attacks by foreign forces and the Afghan soldiers, they have killed many women and children,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said during a phone interview. “Still, we are paying real attention to reducing civilian casualties.”

When asked about the accounts from Sangin of improvised bombs and mines being left in houses, Mujahid said he “totally rejects” the idea that Taliban fighters could be responsible, though he would look into the allegations.

So far, however, human-rights advocates say the Taliban’s actions haven’t matched their rhetoric. With the presidential election controversy fading, rights advocates are hoping that all sides will try to focus on shielding noncombatants from the violence.

“Reducing civilian casualties across the board is a key measure in improving the security situation for Afghans around the country,” Georgette Gagnon, the U.N.’s top human rights officer in Afghanistan, said in an interview. “All parties should view this as the priority in improving the security situation.”

A plea for help

There is some good news. In Sangin, for example, residents who had fled the fighting said they generally trust the government forces and have received medical and other care when needed.

But if residents have come to look to the ANSF for help, they also see the local forces as lacking equipment and training. Because of this, the people I spoke to favored maintaining the flow of international aid.

At FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rob Connell is a Special Forces soldier tasked with commanding the advisers who help the area’s police forces.

He said Afghan forces have become better than ever at securing government centers and other centralized areas, as evidenced by the failure of insurgent efforts to disrupt the election. But they “still have problems” securing the population itself, he said.

“It’s a little like the Wild West of the 1860s or whenever out here,” Connell told me. “District centers and towns are kind of like Fort Apache, and officials expect residents to go to those locations if they have trouble.”

Still, he said, ANSF leaders are trying to expand their reach. “They have the will and the intent, but it will take some time.”

Back in Helmand, Sarayee, the tribal leader from Sangin, looked mournful when I asked if I could take his photograph. He agreed, but only after asking if it would help his people.

“Pictures and photographs cannot help us,” he said. “We are screaming, but no one pays attention.”


Elyas Dayee and Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.



Fruit of the Taliban…


Uncertain Election Clouds NATO Summit


by Lolita C. Baldor

Associated Press

Sep 04, 2014

(two days before the vote audit was completed)

NEWPORT, Wales (AP) – This week’s NATO summit was long planned as a celebration to mark the end of combat in Afghanistan and the coalition forces’ shift to a largely advisory role. But the still-unsettled Afghan election has complicated the event, casting doubt on the transition and leaving the door open for all allied troops to be forced out at year’s end.
As international leaders gather here, including President Barack Obama, there is a nagging uncertainty about whether the Afghans will be able to put a new president in place and soon sign the security agreement that the U.S. and allies need to keep troops in the country into next year.
On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that time is short for Afghan leaders to resolve their presidential election and sign the agreement. He said allied nations stand ready to commit assistance and troops, and will reach their $4.1 billion goal for funding Afghan security forces, but some final decisions can’t be made until the political stalemate is over.
Without the agreement, Rasmussen said, “there can be no mission. Although our military commanders have shown great flexibility in their planning, time is short. The sooner the legal framework is in place, the better.”
The April 6 voting to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai resulted in a runoff between the two candidates. Both have pulled their observers out of a ballot audit meant to determine the winner, and the final results of the audit are expected sometime next week.
The U.S. plans to withdraw all but roughly 10,000 troops by the end of this year, to advise the Afghans and conduct some counterterror missions. That number would be cut in half by the end of 2015. The U.S. would leave only about 1,000 in a security office after the end of 2016.
During the summit session, NATO leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Afghanistan mission, and there was a short ceremony honoring troops that have died in the 13-year conflict.

Because the presidential election is not final, Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, represented his country at the summit. Outgoing President Hamid Karzai and the two candidates did not attend.Instead, Rasmussen said, the two candidates, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, sent a message to NATO, indicating “that they will do all they can to reach a political agreement.”

In a separate private meeting Thursday on the sidelines of the summit, Mohammadi reassured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that both presidential candidates continue to support the security agreement and that “solid progress toward the completion of the election audit” is being made, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Senior U.S. military leaders are also optimistic despite the delays. They believe that the Afghans will resolve the election stand-off, and the winner will sign the security agreement.

But last week, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was stepping down as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said that the election stalemate this summer hurt progress in training the country’s military.

Speaking as he was leaving Afghanistan, Dunford said resolving the political chaos will be key to that military’s success in 2015.

Just prior to the summit’s start, the Taliban in a dawn attack Thursday struck a government compound in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 12 people.

In a stark message to leaders at the NATO summit, the group said that the exit of all foreign combat troops at the end of the year is proof that “no nation is able to subdue a free nation, especially a nation proud and free such as Afghanistan.”

Rasmussen said NATO is in the process of identifying forces for the noncombat advisory mission, but some other nations haven’t made firm commitments because of the ongoing election uncertainty.

Once the politics are settled, he said he is confident nations will fully fill the training mission requirements.

Under an agreement reached at the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012, allies pledged to fund an Afghan force of 230,000 after 2014. It would cost the allies about $4.1 billion annually.


Associated Press writer John-Thor Dahlburg contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press…


Vote Audit Completed


Gandhara News

September 6, 2014


An Afghan electoral official says the audit and recount of all 8 million votes in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election is complete.

Noor Muhammad Noor, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, said on September 5 that within 24 hours, the commission would send the results to the complaints body, which will then have 48 hours to review the results and file complaints.

The final result is expected to be announced early next week.

The UN-supervised audit was launched after candidate Abdullah Abdullah rejected the initial results of a June 14 runoff, alleging massive fraud.

The preliminary results put Abdullah’s rival, Ashraf Ghani, well ahead in the vote.

Under a U.S.-brokered deal to defuse tensions, Abdullah and Ghani pledged to accept the audit results and form a national unity government.



Nearly A Million Refugees


International Rescue Committee

July 29, 20014


Nearly a million people have been forced to leave their homes in North Waziristan, a region of northeast Pakistan, since June 14. More than 95,000 have fled to the Afghan province of Khost and another 17,000 to neighboring Paktika province. Many of these refugees lack clean water and shelter, according to recent assessments by the International Rescue Committee. Because the IRC has worked in Khost since 1993, we have been able to access districts that even the United Nations can’t reach.

An International Rescue Committee (IRC) survey of 70 villages found that most refugees are living alongside local families; however, due to a lack of space and gender sensitivities, many must sleep in unroofed courtyards. In response, the IRC has handed out more than 1,000 tents to provide these displaced people with shelter from the elements.

“The immediate priority has been providing people with shelter to escape the sun, wind and rain, as well as supplying clean water and toilets to prevent illness,” says Allen Greenway, IRC’s Afghanistan country director. “In addition, it has been vital to supply refugees with the bare necessities, because the majority fled with little more than the clothes on their back.”

Fleeing by foot

“We came here with nothing and we have no idea how long we will stay,” says Lal*, one of the refugees now living with his family in an IRC-supplied tent. “We were in such a rush to get out we left everything behind. No cars would take us so we travelled to Khost by foot. The women’s slippers were quickly torn and many had to travel barefoot, which left them with terrible blisters. We carried water in bottles but the adults dared not drink any, in case the children might die of thirst.” Lal was not able to take his sick mother on the arduous journey and she has since died.

Lack of clean water

Assisting the refugees is straining the limited finances of host families. Villagers have told the IRC that instead of refilling their water tanks just once a week, they now pay to fill them every two days.

In the coming weeks, the IRC will be drilling more water boreholes in villages that are hosting the largest number of refugees and paying refugees and local people to maintain taps and wells to guarantee a supply of clean water.

Many local communities also lack sufficient latrines, increasing the risk of diarrhea and other diseases. The IRC has provided over 300 temporary latrines and will be paying local people to build permanent ones.

The IRC has also given more than 2,500 families essential items to replace what they left behind, including bedsheets, tablecloths, jerry cans, gas canisters, emergency lights, soap, shampoo, washing powder, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Loss of education

While local schools are accepting refugee children, Mullah*, a refugee elder, explained the difficulties Pakistanis still face providing quality education for their children.

“We are happy with the local support, but there are a lot of differences in the curriculums between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he says. “Our children have to read and write in Urdu or English, while in Afghanistan the curriculum is in Pashto and Dari.”

Explains Greenway, “The longer these refugees remain in Afghanistan, the more important it will be for them to find work in order to afford lodgings, and make sure children get back in school and are not robbed of their education. A real worry is how we will be able to support people if they are still unable to return home before the temperatures plummet, especially as local people have warned that they won’t have enough food to support the refugees throughout the winter.”

The IRC began working inside Afghanistan in 1988 and reaches over 4 million people in more than 4,000 communities, focusing on community-driven reconstruction projects, education and emergency relief to people who have been forced to flee their homes.

*Full names not used for privacy reasons 



Hate Groups vs. U.S. Child Refugees


by Camilo Vargas & Sarah Gonzalez

Latino USA

August 1, 2014


The spike in children coming to the US border has been called a “border crisis” by the media. Protests have sprung up around the country in response to this crisis. Some protesters call it “a border surge of illegal immigrants” while the more extreme groups call it “an invasion” & vow to do something about it.

The facts: More than 57,000 children fleeing violence and endemic poverty from Central America have been apprehended at the border. They are then taken to detention facilities and shelters across the country, and over 30,000 have been released to relatives, sponsors or parents, mostly in California, Florida, New York and Texas. 

But the communities where the children and families would be held have erupted in a backlash that has mixed communities with anti-immigration activists, hate groups, and in some cases, militias or militia-type groups.

The first incident was in Murrieta, California, on July 1st, after the mayor made it official that Central American undocumented immigrants would be detained in a facility in the community. A video by David Lane of shows protesters blocking off the road for three buses carrying undocumented women and children.

Since then, other protests have taken a turn for the extreme, with armed protesters rallying in Michigan, Virginia, Maryland and throughout the east coast.

There have also been reports of militias actively patrolling the border and militia-type groups mobilizing by the dozens to the border, an initiative the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Patrol has discouraged.

According to Mark Potok, a specialist on hate groups and extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center, three groups are behind the more coordinated efforts by AIPAC, Overpasses For America, and the social media campaign #MakeThemListen, They called for a national protest on July 18th and 19th, 2014, in 300 cities across the US. According to Potok, the turnout to the rallies was low, with just 40 making it out to a New York City protest in front of the United Nations.

But the language has been virulent, and the protests called to picket locations like the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, Calif., where relief efforts for the children were coordinated, or the Peppersound Campground in Oracle, Az, where  child refugees would potentially be held. The organizers are calling for more protests in early August, in what they call a sustained effort to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants to the country. 

Mark Potok highlighted the role of Fox News in fueling the backlash against efforts to house immigrants. Potok also mentioned the role nativist organizations like the Federation for American Immigration – FAIR, Numbers USA and the Center for Immigration Studies, whose senior policy analyst Stephen Steinlight, said of Obama on his immigration policies: “I would think being hung, drawn and quartered is probably too good for him.”

Potok’s comments echo calls by the Anti Defamation League for civility in debate around the children refugees and migrants. The ADL specifically calls out comments by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who asked who would take the blame if “disease is spread across the country” because “the government spreads the illegal immigrants across the country.” The ADL also reprimanded  Rep. Rich Nugent (R.-FL) for claiming that “a lot of these children…quote un-quote…they’re gang members. They’re gang affiliated.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ALIPAC and FAIR as hate-groups, a label that William Gheen, ALIPAC’s director, rejected in a letter earlier this year. Gheen also declined to Latino USA’s request for an interview, with the following statement: 

ALIPAC is a peaceful racially inclusive organization and we do not support media or groups designed to divide Americans among racial lines. We reserve our interviews for media designed for Americans of all races and ethnicities only and therefor must decline to interview with NPR Latino USA. We would reject any similar request from any groups or media that were focused on blacks only or whites only or anyone called ‘Caucasian USA’. So we object on our principles opposing racism and we have found that we almost never get a fair report on our positions from employees or companies that owe their incomes to continued or accelerated illegal immigration into America from Latin American nations. Thank you for inquiring.

Fox News has not answered our request for comment. FAIR replied saying Potok’s opinion was not qualified since the Southern Poverty Law Center has no government affiliation.

James Neighbors, from Overpasses for America, did agree to an interview with Maria Hinojosa. We have included the entire interview in the SoundCloud file below the segment.



The GOP Hates Children

President of advocacy group criticizes Republican politicians


Janet Murguía, president of the largest Latino advocacy group in the United States, has a formal warning for Republicans: Help the child refugees at the border and act on immigration reform, or say goodbye to the idea of winning the White House.

Murguía, the head of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, delivered her remarks Monday afternoon at the Los Angeles Convention Center during day three of the NCLR’s annual conference. On the subject of the current border crisis, Murguía said she was “sickened” by the hostile reaction of many Americans to the child refugees and blamed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for Congress’ inability to pass immigration reform.

More than 57,000 children escaping poverty and violence in Central America have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border since October, overwhelming local resources. Many of the children, upon arrival, are turning themselves in to authorities and attempting to seek asylum.

In late June, overcrowding at the Texas-Mexico border prompted the Department of Homeland Security to transfer many of the children to California facilities, where they were blocked by anti-immigration protesters in Murrieta.

“The plight of these child refugees has sadly brought out the worst in a lot of people,” Murguía told an audience of hundreds on Monday. “I was sickened by the sight of angry protesters this month in Murrieta, California, blocking busloads of refugee children and shouting ‘Go back to where you come from!’ and ‘No illegals!’ … When they cloak their hatred in patriotism, shouting ‘USA! USA!’ it made me angry.”

“In fact, I was outraged,” Murguía continued. “There is nothing more un-American than denying compassion and decency towards a group of young children in need. There is nothing more un-American than deliberately frightening an already traumatized group of kids — some of them were still in diapers. There’s nothing more un-American than a mob taking the law into their own hands and preventing authorities from doing their job processing these refugees. What we saw in Murrieta is not patriotism. It is ugly, divisive and yet another low in a debate that I thought could not get much lower.”

Murguía said that politicians like Murrieta Mayor Alan Long, who urged his constituents to complain to elected officials about the influx of children, and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), who said the children were carrying ebola and other deadly diseases, were the most “shameful.”

She also cited Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and his recent decision to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border, although Perry has said the soldiers will be there not to challenge the children, but to stop criminals from taking advantage of the situation and crossing illegally.

“Soldiers with guns confronting children seeking refuge,” Murguía said. “What is wrong with these people? How can they talk about children like this? Who treats children this way? Every one of the elected officials I just quoted consider themselves people of faith, but there is nothing godly in their words. It is disgraceful.”

This border crisis — part of what Murguía called an “international humanitarian emergency,” echoing Pope Francis’ recent words — will define how the rest of the world perceives the United States, she said.

“We will not let the faces of hate define America to the rest of the world on how we address this emergency,” Murguía said. “We will uphold and we will live our values when it comes to these children. That is our promise.”

Murguía recalled how in March, during remarks at an awards dinner, she called President Barack Obama “the deporter-in-chief” because he had not used his executive power to give relief to families being torn apart by his administration’s record-high number of deportations. Murguía said she now had some choice words for Boehner, accusing the speaker of a “dereliction of duty” on the issue of immigration reform.

“The reason immigration reform is not going to happen this year is because of Republican extremists in the House of Representatives and the willful neglect of Speaker John Boehner,” said Murguía, noting that Boehner has blocked every immigration bill to come through Congress and has been unwilling to compromise while blaming Obama for the lack of progress.

Murguía then called the crowd to action, asking Latinos to hold their elected officials accountable in November’s midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential contest. She said that while Republicans still had time to correct their course, the country’s Latinos will be watching to see how they address the child refugee crisis and immigration reform.

“I promise you this,” Murgsuía said to a cheering crowd. “The road to the White House runs right through the Hispanic community, and you will not see a Republican become president without it.”