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



Afghanistan’s Islamic Future


by Muhammad Amin Mudaqiq & Abubakar Siddique

Gandhara News & Analysis

May 19, 2014


As NATO troops wind down more than a decade of combat operations in Afghanistan, it is increasingly likely that some version of political Islam will be central to politics and governance in the country for the foreseeable future. Despite the violence that has marked Afghan Islamist factions in recent years, their inclusion may yet help pave the way to a more peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
For centuries, Afghans practiced a moderate version of Islam that emphasized religious observance but remained marginal to politics.  Islam was invoked to mobilize Afghans for empire building and defeating foreign invasions. Until a few decades ago, political Islam was not a source of extremism and violence.
The modern Islamist movement in Afghanistan emerged in response to the rise of communist factions in the 1960s and ’70s. Pakistan, Afghanistan’s eastern neighbor, tapped into the potential of this nascent force, which was led by students and teachers of Kabul University.
Islamabad’s support, Western backing, and communist persecution propelled the once marginal Muslim Youth Organization into a robust guerilla organization that resisted the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Its leaders and members became holy warriors, or mujahedeen.
Once in power in Kabul after the fall of Afghan socialism in 1992, the mujahedeen evolved into factional warlords in a fratricidal civil war. What eventually emerged was the Taliban, a new breed of rural hardline Islamists.
The Taliban’s campaign to restore order in the mid-1990s attracted support in some Afghan regions, and they crushed most mujahedeen factions. However, they failed to deliver effective governance and were hijacked by Arab, Pakistani, and Central Asian extremists whose actions ultimately led to their downfall in late 2001.
Twelve years later, a mujahedeen-dominated Afghan government is struggling with a resurgent Taliban. To ensure future stability, these two major currents of Afghan Islamists will need to make peace. Additionally, Afghanistan’s leaders must reverse past mistakes of excluding Taliban factions in governance and give them a stake in the political process.
The international community can support these efforts by encouraging Kabul to engage former mujahedeen and the Taliban’s current leadership – at province, district, and tribal levels — and to enter a constructive peace process in governing Afghanistan together.
Economic and partisan stakes in the current political system coaxed former mujahedeen warlords to accept new roles as politicians and administrators. Similar incentives for Taliban leaders will considerably weaken their military zeal and prevent them from turning into jihadist proxies for Al-Qaeda or regional states.
Pakistan, too, plays a role. The imperative of domestic security must compel Islamabad to back intra-Afghan reconciliation wholeheartedly, and Pakistani leaders must deliver on recent promises to unequivocally back the elected Afghan government and refrain from supporting armed factions.
Inclusion and commitment to Afghanistan’s independence are not new concepts to the Taliban. Their literature indicates that while they are still committed to creating a more “Islamic” Afghanistan, the movement has abandoned moves to recreate an “Islamic Emirate” and no longer aspires to promote jihad across borders.
Taliban leaders now need to apply the lessons learned from Islamist movements elsewhere to chart their new path. Former mujahedeen enemies can convince the Taliban to strive for the implementation of Islamic laws through a peaceful political process, in the same way that many Pakistani lslamist political parties, whose leaders can be considered Taliban mentors, have publically shunned violence and entered into coalitions as a means to achieve their political goals.

The best way forward for Afghanistan’s Islamist factions is to the path to reconciliation. Indeed, many former Taliban leaders have already integrated into the Afghan political system by becoming lawmakers, governors, and peace negotiators. Hizb-e Islami, a separate insurgent faction, has largely been reintegrated into the new Afghanistan. The move into the political mainstream requires a commitment to peace and a desire to leave sanctuaries in Pakistan in return for a cooperative future in Afghanistan.

.In return, the Afghan government must accept that the Taliban cannot reinvent themselves unless past grievances are addressed and they are accepted as a political movement with legitimate aspirations. Establishing a robust judiciary will be key to enticing the Taliban, as justice is central to Islamic notions of governance. Following Afghanistan’s presidential elections in April, the new government should make creating a new judiciary a national priority.

.The future of Islamism in Afghanistan is fraught with challenges. But if handled properly, political Islam could instead become a mainstay of Afghan politics and a guarantor of stability. The political future of Afghanistan need not reflect its troubled past.

.Muhammad Amin Mudaqiq is the director of RFE/RL Radio Mashaal. Abubakar Siddique is an RFE/RL correspondent. The views are the authors’ own and do not represent those of RFE/RL



Duty World By Rawclyde!



I am an American who backs whatever choice the Afghan people make in regards to the government we’ve been nurturing in their country.  I believe in free will.  I do not believe in tyranny.  Taliban believe in tyranny.

Most Americans with whom I am acquainted know next to nothing about Afghanistan ~ the country in which the United States has been waging war for around 12 years.  The two countries have a relationship ~ but it could be better ~ much better.  As far as I am concerned, that better relationship begins right here with me.  At times it may not seem so, but I’m quite serious about this.  Just because we’re getting a divorce certainly doesn’t mean we have to be enemies.  However, that might occur if the Taliban end-up ruling in Afghanistan.  But that’s up to the citizens of Afghanistan.

April 5, 2014, about a week from now, an election is on that nation’s schedule to happen, more intense & important than any to which I’ve ever been privy.  Lot’s of people are dying.  I’m sorry about that.  The fighting, as observed from my perch on the other side of our planet, is fierce.  And it’s between the Afghans, nobody else, although each side has its own back-up & loyal & un-loyal tribes.  Somehow, the Afghan government & my government have made it this way.  And it’s about as fair as it can get.  It’s just too bad there’s so much bloodshed.  I blame that on the Taliban.

They are the sons of Afghanistan ~ but not the only sons of that country.  I back the Afghan National Army.  They are also sons (and daughters) of Afghanistan ~ and are democratic rather than tyrannical like their fierce but not fiercer opponents, the Taliban, who governed for a while but not right now.  Presently, if the Taliban want to govern they must run for election, campaign & be elected ~ or blow the whole thing to pieces if the rest of Afghanistan and its brand new army let’s them.  Also, I must add, if the Taliban do get elected sometime in the misty future, they’ve got to uphold a democratic rather than instigate a tyrannical rule, or, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they quite possibly won’t be ruling for but a few months.

The Taliban have nobody to blame but themselves for the presence of my countrymen & others in Afghanistan.  You don’t coddle the murderer of 3,000 American citizens on American soil (September 11, 2001) and likely get away with it.  The staunch and fierce Taliban are doomed as long as they are unwilling to compromise ~ and that’s how they appear to be ~ uncompromising.  I’ve read that at one time they were kind of like folk heroes.  But it looks to me now that nobody likes them, not even their own people.  If they think their own people are only Pashtun, I beg to defer.  Their people now include all the other Afghans too.  Sorry.

One last thing ~ the Taliban or any other extremist-group highjacking of the Islamic faith is not appreciated by the truly religious anywhere on Earth.  Go ahead & ask Benazir Bhutto, the Islamic prime minister twice of Pakistan who was assassinated, as she rolls in her grave with each murder that the misled Talibanee commit in her neighboring country as well as in her own.


new heros in town

Afghan National Army ~ new heroes in town



Martial Integrity



by Rawclyde!


With the Republicans led by the nose by the Taliban Tea Party & the Democrats on a homosexual promotion binge, the United States has one last hope of assembling a little martial integrity.  This hope lay in Afghanistan.  Sell the A-10 Warthog Fleet to the Afghan National Army (ANA).

My hunch is that’s what the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has in mind.  I hope he’s not too timid to pull it off.  Lately Hagel has been talking about downsizing the military and in doing so, eliminating the Warthog aeroplane fleet.  If this comes to be, we can sell the fleet for one dollar or so to the Afghan National Army who, with us leaving the premises, is in dire need of air support against the Taliban enemy out of Pakistan.  It could make the difference in the war.

Instead, it looks like Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, and Barack Obama, the U.S. president, are abandoning the ANA, which is a pity, a shame, and very possibly a mortal sin.  It looks like this is why MSNBC, the Democrat channel on American TV, has only been blathering about queers & a tub of lard in New Jersey & ignoring the Afghanistan War.

Maybe its too late for martial integrity.  Maybe it’s all in Pakistan.  Sometimes my personal paranoia taints my perspective.  Sometimes I don’t see too straight.  But, also, I am occasionally right on target.


Words & War

destroyed village in afghanistan


Words can be like bullets.  And bullets can be like words.  You might miss.  You might hit your target.  But a word is not a bullet.  And a bullet is not a word.  Bullets are made for killing.  Words are not.  Words are made to nick the heart.

Some people are old.  Some are young.  About half the people on our planet are women.  And the other half men.  If an old man & a young woman can talk to each other without screwing it up they’re doing pretty good.  I, myself, am an old man enthralled with wordcraft, not real familiar with bullets ~ engaged, involved, certainly superficially, probably not too deeply, but maybe, with a war on the other side of the planet.  It’s an intriguing semi-intellectual pursuit that can tug at an emotion or two now & then.  Words must be dished out, on occasion, with a grain of salt.  An unfortunate application of words can make a writer feel oh so wise and the next day feel oh so stupid.  Oh well.  And these damn words can make other people steaming mad or ~ or nothing at all.

Then there’s swimming pools with their shallow and deep ends, high boards and low boards on the deep ends.  I’ve never seen a diving board break.  Have you?  However, when very young I did some floundering in the deep end & could have drowned if somebody hadn’t pulled me out.  With words, when I begin to flounder in the deep end of a topic like war, please feel free, gentle & wise reader, to reach right in here & pull me out with a strategically placed “comment.”

War, I believe, is not pretty.  Peace is prettier.  A good looking woman is much easier to look at than some down & dirty war.  Wars are for avoiding & good for nothing.  Probably about 80-percent of the American people are in denial when it comes to the warring in Afghanistan in this year of 2014.  That’s most of the American people ~ yet our government by & for the people has been waging war way over there for 12 years.  Are the American people properly engaged in this often times ugly & tragic pursuit?  No.  Of course not.  We hate it.  Most Americans, I find, don’t like even talking about it.  When they do talk about it they’re likely to get extremely stupid.  Chances are they’ve never been to Afghanistan & sure as heaven & hell don’t understand that little war-torn nation about the size of ~ Texas?

Well.  Afghanistan and the United States have been mixing it up in one smoky relationship ~ hell-bent, fool-hardy, and full of crazed Taliban, brave villagers & urbanites, children, dubious elections, more Taliban & their rude friends, Al Qaeda leftovers, soldiers, courage, death, other nations, aid workers, a few more jobs, stolen money, endless debt, waste, and, I’ve read, the return of peace-loving Sufis back into the sunlight since the bully Taliban lost their job pretending to govern back in 2001.  And hopefully, we’re leaving.  Thirteen years is enough.  We’re getting a divorce.

Good bye, Afghanistan!

~ from Rawclyde!




Goats & Spiritualities



by Rawclyde!


It is high time for direct communication.  No matter if it be clumsy, even stupid.  Afghanistan is in peril ~ has been, it seems, forever ~ and will be forever ~ unless I be bold & speak forth.  I am expert at nothing ~ especially that faraway nation a-crumble.  I am, though, an American citizen & it is my duty, I believe, to save it.  And so I will ~ beginning right now!

I write to whomever comes across these words.  If nobody else comes along, I still fiddle.  If I’m fiddling for only myself, perchance it’s best this way.  However, if more than one other entity happens along ~ patriots, let’s riot!

After over 100 posts published of Old Timer Chronicle II ~ more or less exploring the idea of Afghanistan ~ I am now capable enough to do a Sufi spin on this toy piano.  So if it not be too repulsive, kind reader, please witness.

I’m a whirling now ~ moaning ~ moaning rhythmically ~ the vibration hits the street, catapults thru the sky & into your glorious brain, sister, brother!  Ho ho ho, Afghanistan!!!

Probably the most wonderful thing America has ever done is invade this war-torn land.  Trouble is, I feel like I am the only mortal who knows it.  So I’ve spun some fictional characters so that I don’t feel so all alone.  One of them is Capt’n Chuck Fiddler.  But the best & up-most beloved, passionately beloved, is the earthly & miraculously divine Col. Sheena Johnson.  Both of the US Army, these personalities brimful of intrigue & curiosity, live & venture forth via verse in this issue of the Old Timer ~ ~ so be it.

The best thing about invading the remarkable & furious Afghanistan is that the U.S. got to avenge the tragic September 11th, 200l, invasion of our own.  So the next time a Taliban whines about our brutality in Afghanistan, let him kick himself in the ass for letting Ben Laden use his country as a platform to murder so many Americans & topple our majestic towers in New York City.

The worst thing about our invading the quaint abode of inquisitive goats and prayerful spiritualities (Afghanistan) is before we finished the job we interrupted it with ~ Iraq!  So be it.

Now ~ dubious & illustrious Iran ~ the central remnant of romantic Persia ~ is surrounded, fragile like, by the vibrantly fragile democracies of Iraq & Afghanistan.  Isn’t America wily!  And now we’ve got Iran at the negotiating table talking ~ nuclear eligibility.  And we both got the same enemy now ~ Al Qaeda ~ out of Saudi Arabia ~ birthed by the fanatical Wahabes & now attacking Syria, Iran’s ally.

Pakistan, our sulking ally with its military blathering outta both sides its mouth, is next ~ now surrounded by the looming democracy of Afghanistan & the booming democracy of India.  Democracy is free-will.  Taliban Sharia Law is tyranny.  Sorry.




Sufi Dance

by Asghar Ghoncheh Pour


Jungle Girl Cover III

by Adriano Batista




~~~                                                                                          Beautiful mosque in Herat

by Kathy Gilsinan

World Politics Review

January 15, 2014


Historically a crossroads of commerce and culture linking Persia and Central Asia, the ethnically mixed western region of Afghanistan has more recently been notable for the stability and wealth of its most important province, Herat, and its capital city of the same name. The province of Herat, which borders Iran and Tajikistan, owes much of its prosperity to customs revenue, which in turn is one of the two main domestic sources of revenue for the central government in Kabul. Herat’s growth and integration with the rest of Afghanistan, however, are threatened by instability and poor infrastructure in the surrounding provinces.

Since 2005, Italy has served as the lead nation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Regional Command West, which includes Herat and the surrounding provinces of Ghor, Badghis and Farah. There are currently about 5,000 ISAF troops in the region, from a peak of about 8,000 in late 2011, and under the draft U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement currently pending signature, the military base south of the city of Herat would be one of nine across the country the U.S. would retain access to after 2014.

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) began to assume lead responsibility for security in Herat in late 2011, and have gradually taken over in the rest of the western region since then. Herat itself has remained secure in the transition period, according to Aziz Hazim of the Herat Government and Media Information Center. “Given the relative stability” of the provincial government, he says, after the handover to Afghan forces, “there was not much change in the security situation in Herat province.” Col. Stefano Cianfrocca of the Italian air force, deputy chief of staff for stability in Regional Command West, says the ANSF passed the crucial early test of securing the voter registration process ahead of the presidential election set for this April. “There have been elections before, but they have been closely supervised and supported by ISAF and international organizations,” Cianfrocca says. “This time the Afghans have taken the lead on the elections.”

Working in the ANSF’s favor in western Afghanistan is the absence of conditions faced by Afghan forces in other parts of the country. “Western Afghanistan has not had a history, like that of the east and south, of intertribal fighting over the decades,” says Karl Eikenberry, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011. (Disclosure: I worked for Eikenberry as a graduate research assistant at Stanford University from 2011 to 2012.) “There were sources of violence and instability in the west, but not to the degree we found in Regional Commands East, South and Southwest,” he adds.

It also helps that western Afghanistan does not share a border with Pakistan. Iran has demonstrated a keen interest in western Afghanistan’s development, and though there have been reports of Iran arming and training militants there, its alleged support for the insurgency has not been nearly so widespread and well-funded as Pakistan’s. Iran has meanwhile provided some $500 million in aid to Afghanistan, most of it concentrated in the western region; it has granted Afghanistan access to its Chabahar port, freeing Afghan businesses from nearly exclusive reliance on Pakistan’s port at Karachi; and it is constructing a railway link between eastern Iran and Herat, which could further cement Herat’s role as a regional trade hub.

But if geography has given western Afghanistan, and Herat in particular, some advantages, it also presents dangers. Iran has deported thousands of Afghan refugees, exacerbating a potentially destabilizing flow of migration along Afghanistan’s western border. Meanwhile, rising instability in Herat’s neighboring provinces could suffocate Herat’s growth or damage its links to the rest of Afghanistan. A recent Pentagon report noted rising violence in Farah, which borders Herat to the south, attributing it to militants pushed out of neighboring Helmand province by the 2009 U.S. military surge.

But the conditions for Farah’s instability predated the surge. Farah is a large province with poor infrastructure, making it difficult and expensive for Afghan security forces to control; they rely instead on local militias known as the Afghan Local Police, which are controversial for their history of abusing residents. “Just keeping the road infrastructure safe must be . . . a nightmare,” says Fabrizio Foschini of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, who has documented “a serious deterioration in security” as the province transitioned to Afghan security lead. Farah is also the only province in western Afghanistan heavily affected by the opium economy. “We’ll see it again in a couple of months come harvest time—you have Taliban and communities fighting side by side against the government,” Foschini says. “The situation can become problematic in the next few years in what lies around this sort of security oasis” in Herat.

Even Herat’s wealth has attracted its own kind of violence, more opportunistic than ideological. While the province rarely makes headlines for spectacular attacks—though a suicide attack on the U.S. consulate last September, claimed by the Taliban, showed the city was not immune—insurgents and criminals more often resort to kidnapping for ransom. “Herat has long been the kidnapping capital of Afghanistan,” Foschini says. Criminal networks that may not be formally allied with the Taliban have a freer hand to extort locals given that the police are, in Foschini’s words, “fighting basically a war”—in turn, the unsafe environment they create may scare off the businesses Herat depends on, creating opportunities for the Taliban through rising instability.

The Taliban’s fall, and international investment in infrastructure and development, have allowed western Afghanistan to capitalize on some of its geographical advantages. Through expanding trade links and improved customs collection, Herat’s growth in particular is less dependent on international aid than that of other pockets of relative wealth in Afghanistan, making it more likely that most of Herat’s gains over the past 12 years will outlast the international presence there. Whether and to what extent those gains can benefit the rest of the country, given the belt of instability that surrounds Herat, is unclear, though, and protecting western Afghanistan’s “security oasis” will test ANSF for many years to come.



Ignoring Karzai’s Insults

an editorial by John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon

New York Times, November 28, 2013

Gen Allen US Marines

John Allen (left), a retired Marine Corps general and former commander of NATO and American forces in Afghanistan…  Michael O’Hanlon (not in photo) helped with the spelling…


WASHINGTON — What is going on with President Hamid Karzai? The world’s only superpower, leading a coalition of some 50 nations, is willing to stay on in his country after a war that has already lasted a dozen years and cost the United States more than $600 billion and more than 2,000 fatalities — and yet the Afghan president keeps throwing up roadblocks.

The latest insult is his decision to hold off on signing a bilateral security agreement, the legal basis for American forces to remain in his country past 2014, on the grounds that his successor should have that prerogative next year. Mr. Karzai has also thrown in new demands — just when we thought the security agreement was a done deal. For one, he now seems to believe he can compel the United States to release all Afghan detainees in the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay.

Certainly, part of Mr. Karzai’s attitude comes from the umbrage he has taken at various Americans, especially in recent years. Some United States officials did make mistakes in their handling of the complex Afghan leader, lecturing him in public too stridently about matters such as Afghan government corruption. There can be little doubt, though, that Mr. Karzai’s own peevishness and ingratitude have played a large role.

In addition, Mr. Karzai believes, accurately perhaps, that the talks over the bilateral security agreement provide him with his last remaining leverage with Washington. He is wrong in thinking that Afghanistan remains a center of geopolitics, the location of a modern-day “great game” like the 19th-century competition between Britain and Russia, or the 1980s Cold War struggle pitting the Soviet Union against the United States and others. But Mr. Karzai is right that we are concerned enough about Afghanistan’s future to wish to maintain a presence even after NATO’s combat mission expires in just 13 months. He also rightly perceives that the United States wants to keep a vigilant eye on extremist groups in tribal regions of northwest Pakistan.

Against this backdrop, American officials should stay calm. It would be a mistake to let one man — increasingly detached from Afghan public and political opinion — determine the fate of the American role in South Asia. Even with Osama bin Laden dead, the stakes remain high: Extremist groups from Al Qaeda to Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Pakistani group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack) could easily put down roots again in Afghanistan if the country were to fall to the Taliban after NATO’s departure.

The recent assembly of Afghan tribal elders, a loya jirga, again demonstrated what we already knew — that the Afghan people want us to stay. After the defeat of the Soviets in 1989, civil war, state collapse and Taliban victory followed. The Afghan people have seen this movie already; they do not want the sequel. The loya jirga urged Mr. Karzai to sign the agreement; he demurred.

The main candidates in Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election also want us to stay. A poll by the Moby Group in Kabul, Afghanistan’s largest private media organization, suggests that the two leading contenders are former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Both are pro-Western; both are smart and competent. The same is true of Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, said by some to be President Karzai’s choice to succeed him after elections in April. Other candidates also support a continuing American and international presence.

So the United States should stay patient. It can say to Mr. Karzai, If you want to reinforce Afghan democracy by letting your successor sign this security deal, we can live with that; in the meantime, working with your ministers and other leaders, we will plan on staying — precisely as if the accord were already in place.

Of course, the United States can make contingency plans; it would need a Plan B in any event. Even as it anticipates alternate scenarios, it can continue discussions with Mr. Karzai on the other “conditions” that he has just introduced. For American leaders, we counsel patience and flexibility in the talks on a security deal.

Let us remember the girls who can go to school — an affront to the Taliban — and the Afghan women who are increasingly emerging as an important factor in the future of their country. Let’s remember, too, the ethnic minorities who have found a place and their voice in a modern, forward-looking Afghanistan.

And finally, let’s not forget the progress purchased so dearly in this decade and more of war. We must not permit Mr. Karzai’s pique to flush all this down the drain.

The United States can ride this one out. And given the enduring American strategic interests in this part of the world, as well as our huge sacrifice, that’s exactly what we should do.

In the end, this is about the American and the Afghan peoples, not about Hamid Karzai.



40 Years Of Hard Lessons


The fall of modern Afghanistan’s 225 year-old monarchy 40 years ago this week was a watershed moment in the country’s history. It defined, to a large extent, the next four decades and continues, to this day, to haunt Afghans as they struggle to restore stability in their country and normalcy in their lives. There are many lessons learned and parallels that can be drawn from the past as Afghans and the international community grapple with a complex transition that will underscore the end of a long foreign military mission, elections and the probability of reconciliation with brutal armed factions that continue to bleed the country.

Although the July 17, 1973 coup d’état headed by prince Mohamad Daoud that toppled his cousin King Zahir Shah was bloodless and welcomed across society because he was a known entity, the political consequences over the years, nonetheless, have been dramatic, and the human and economic costs expanded considerably after the bloody 1978 communist coup that overthrew the Daoud republic.

As a result of extreme upheavals, the country, more recently besieged by poor governance, weak institutions and capacities and, above all, a nagging insurgency with cross-border sanctuaries, has had a difficult time recovering despite a massive international intervention.

Although Afghans are naturally divided over the interpretation of segments of their past four decades of history, as most versions encompass some level of bias, there is, however, no one single person or entity to blame for this bleak outcome. The blame is shared among many actors. After all, Afghanistan underwent the most turbulent period of its history, with different internal and external players involved at different intervals. In relative terms, some tried to play a constructive role whereas others are seen as spoilers.

The country was – and still is – victimized by unwanted regional meddling, brutalized by pre-2002 undemocratic regimes, and held back by repressive and regressive ideological movements. Despite tremendous pressure, Afghans have shown great tenacity and faith when the odds were stacked against them.

Along the way, many opportunities have also been squandered. Although, the current window of opportunity that opened up after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 is still open to try and fix the country and smooth over the damage of 30 years of warfare, many Afghans are concerned that it might close prematurely or out of expediency, and a unique opportunity would leave behind a fragile situation.

It is only in the past 12 years that any collective effort has been made – at a high cost to Afghans and donors alike – to correct the negative drift. This is why most Afghans are cautiously optimistic, want to protect their gains and want a comfortable level of certainty about their future. This is why some lessons from the past – granted that it was a different era – in conjunction with current realities can help them and their external backers steer the country toward better prospects, avoiding a repeat of misplaced priorities, miscalculation, and mismanagement, that might lead to a new round of conflict and despondency.

This is also what ordinary Afghans expect from their political leaders and from their friends in the international arena at this historically critical juncture. They see their leaders as excessively infatuated by the lure of power, unable to think and act strategically, and they see the internationals as not enough focused on making sure that the end-game is not lost.

Lessons for domestic consumption

The three mutually inclusive factors essential for political stability in the Afghan context are: Political resolve to defend and assure survival of a legitimate political order; critical-mass inclusivity aiming to strengthen national cohesion; and keeping key domestic and international constituencies engaged constructively.

Furthermore, possessing strategic vision, and leadership and communications skills are tools that can improve the quality of governance, crisis management and foster a healthy political environment to enable social and economic progress.

The constitutional monarchy that gave Afghanistan a taste of democratic rights and reforms from 1964 till 1973, did not crumble because of lack of tools or enablers, but because of a lack of political will to nurture and protect the legitimate democratic process, and keep key domestic constituencies onboard. For example, failing to ratify the crucial political party laws in the 1960s pushed some groups underground, and helped sow the seeds of militancy and military coups soon thereafter.

Even western democracies, including the US government, which showed little interest in Afghanistan during that stage of the Cold War, had no appreciation for the King’s democratic experiment and thought it was too advanced for what British colonial “specialists” have for more than a century wrongly assumed to be a primitive tribal society. Today, the same duplicitous argument is being made by anti-democratic and hegemonic powers in our neighborhood in order to keep the tribal areas underdeveloped and keep the international community at bay.

It is baffling to think that over the past century little effort was made to introduce the tribal regions, inhabited by more than 30 million people, to modern education and economic development. Instead, thousands of religious schools, mostly run by fanatics, were facilitated to radicalize the youth and turn them into Jihadi fodder.

The difference this time around is that on the Afghan side, we have a population that is tired of war, eager for normalcy and economic opportunity, and wanting basic rights and freedoms framed by moderate religious and cultural norms. Demographically, a youthful majority connected to cyber space is not ready to submit to Talibanization or any dictatorial despot.

As some analysts allege, feuds or conspiracies within the ruling clan or family have also contributed to turmoil in the past, as in the case of the 1973 coup. A return to clannish intrigue is not seen as a healthy alternative now or in the future.

Another concern relates to the ruling clique and the quality of a leader’s advisory team, which, in current times, is a question preoccupying many Afghans. While president Daoud is considered by many to have been a patriotic and progressive leader, he is also seen as an authoritarian who put an end to democratic practices, did not tolerate dissention and preferred to be surround by yes-men. Consequently, not only did the quality of governance deteriorate, but his time as a strongman was cut short by turncoats whose loyalties lay elsewhere.

Members of the same pro-Moscow leftist factions that helped him secure power in 1973, played a key role in overthrowing his regime and instigating a blood bath after the April 1978 coup.

One reason for this tragic turn of events has been the Machiavellian nature of zero-sum politics practiced by individuals and groups who are only bent on acquiring and retaining power in a discriminatory manner at any cost. Furthermore, not being able to define friend from foe, and resorting to ethnic-style politics has deteriorated public confidence in political elites and undermined social justice.

In other words, when politics intersects with corruption, as laws and values are trampled, the country inevitably faces instability leading to conflict. These are reason why there is little appetite in the country today for a system that is volatile and that cannot offer some level of predictability and sustainability.

The external context

Given Afghanistan’s precarious geography, this situation has been aggravated over the years by regional interference and manipulation that take advantage of Afghan systemic weaknesses and enable external agendas that manifest themselves in regional rivalries that harm the country.

Afghans have come to realize that their challenge has deep regional roots and are starting to look at longer-term options that would safeguard their interests. While mindful of the pitfalls, they expect their government to act responsibly and address the threats in a rational and realistic fashion, avoiding unnecessary entanglements or a weak disposition that does not reflect a wide consensus.

Over the past 40 years, the country experienced regime change on numerous occasions, ranging from hard left (as in the communist rule from 1978 to 1992 that included the brutal Soviet occupation decade) and hard religious right (under the Taliban/al Qaida from 1996 to 2001). In each case it was not a purely civil strife situation. There were – and continue to be – determined external players involved in support of their perceived interests.

The foreign meddler has tried to define the chaos as revolution, Jihad, civil war and ethnic war, but Afghans have learned to differentiate between home-made chaos, intervention that is welcomed and the kind that is not. That is why most Afghans have a hard time accepting Taliban brutality as Jihad, or even more comically, as “nationalism” versus foreign occupation. They remember that prior to 2001 when there were no Western troops in the country, the Taliban, affiliated to multi-national brigades of terrorists and regional Jihadists, brutalized their own Muslim compatriots.

By the end of his rule in 1978, President Daoud attempted a strategic, yet abrupt, volte-face from Soviet domination to Western rapprochement. He even courted Iran, moderate Arabs and Pakistan. It failed because of domestic intrigue, untimely miscalculation and the level of Soviet penetration in Afghan institutions.

In comparison, as the 2014 transition approaches, Afghans are once again faced with a decision to choose their strategic allies. Public sentiment in this regard seems to reflect a consensus in favor of international engagement, but, once again the ruling clique, dealing with intrigue and inconsistency, is putting the fate of the country in jeopardy.

Making demands that are unrealistic or resorting to conspiracy theories have hurt Afghan governments in the past, and will continue to hurt the country today and squander what is left of its opportunities.

The core of Afghan stability at this stage depends on a hands-off stance by its neighbors, especially Pakistan. This in turn requires a non-provocation stance by Afghans, while seeking a comprehensive regional (with international community assurances) understanding that can benefit all sides, and guarantee Afghan sovereignty and independence.

As we look back, judge past events and make historical analogies, future generations will do the same and will judge today’s developments based on our ability to understand, decide, manage and lead.

Not only should Afghans strive to interpret history with veracity, so that today’s leaders and future generations act responsibly and avoid repeating its cardinal errors, but they should also encourage the political class, which includes women leaders and youth movements in the neighborhood to educate the grassroots, adopt new methods and out-of-the box approaches to address contentious issues and recommend practical solutions.

Failing to do so can have grave consequences beyond Afghan borders, as the country’s turbulent history over the past 40 years has demonstrated.

Omar Samad is Senior Central Asia Fellow at New America Foundation, President of Silkroad Consulting, and former Afghan ambassador to France and Canada.




I’ve Never Been To Afghanistan

by Rawclyde!



Col. Sheena Johnson, homesick for the USA, comforted by Rawclyde!


     I’ve never been to Afghanistan.  I’ll never go to Afghanistan.  When I was in the U.S. Army fer 4 years (1980-1984), they sent me to Hawaii to support support during peace time.  Hard duty.  But somebody had to do it.

     A few years back, the Taliban government wouldn’t hand over Ben Laden, so our government with our military wiped them out ~ and Afghanistan became our broken nation to rebuild ~ and NATO has partnered with us.  So now we’re all in Afghanistan.  Lots of us just don’t know it.

     Welcome to Afghanistan ~ one tough nut to crack.  How’s it feel, American?  How’s it feel trying to rebuild Afghanee Land on the cheap in the image of yourself?  Are you in denial?

     We’re rebuilding Afghanistan in the image of ourself because its the only way we know how to rebuild a nation ~ and this particular nation is such a basket case that all we can really do is fill it with hardboiled eggs, say “Happy Easter,” and leave.  It’s taking us about twelve years.  Hopefully we can leave unlike the way we left Saigon.  We got chased out of there.  Hopefully we can leave Afghanistan somewhat more smoothly ~ maybe somewhat like we left Iraq.  We’re trying very hard ~ except for the Tea-Party Republicans in the US House of Representatives.  They shut our government down for two weeks recently.  It’s like they don’t even know we’re at war in Afghanistan.  Their shutdown of the government probably helped the Taliban & their assorted cronies kill more Americans ~ maybe like us draft-dodgers did in Vietnam.  So I guess many of us are guilty at one time or another.

     I always end up having to explain ~ if I was a draft-dodger yesteryear, how is it that I was in the US Army too?  Well, I draft-dodged.  Then later I lied my way into the Army.  They knew I was lying about never having been a fugitive of the selective service system.  They wanted good liars at the time.  I’d make a good spy.

     I wouldn’t go to Vietnam.  We were the aggressor.  However, the Soviet Union was the “aggressor,” incidentally in Afghanistan, when I enlisted.  I was also unemployed and needed a job.  I was 30 years old.  1980.  I was a crazy boy.  I still am at 63.

     My older brother, Dill, hates reading about this worse than I hate writing about it.  He volunteered, US Army, went to Vietnam.  He was a helicopter mechanic & crew-chief at Pleiku & came back a silent sergeant ~ became an airline mechanic and in due time retired ~ a regular guy ~ married twice ~ two sons.  And our family is proud of him.

     About two weeks after he got home from the Vietnam War, I showed him an article in Time Magazine about Pleiku getting run over in the TET Offensive.  He barely missed a big boom boom.  He didn’t say anything.  He just read the paragraph & quietly became a right winger.  I became a left winger.  And the eagle happily flutters its wings as it swoops across the canyon.

     My little brother is an artist.  My big sister was a holistic masseuse.  Now she is an old lady.  We’re all getting pretty old now.

     The theme of Old Timer Chronicle II has something to do with, obviously, Afghanistan.  The reason for this is ~ I have a TV now but Afghanistan is rarely mentioned on the news.  It’s not mentioned too often in newspapers either lately.  Yet we still have people there in harm’s way.  So, kind of like a newspaper editor, I’m kind of covering the war until we leave there, hopefully as scheduled come November, 2014.

     After all, the US Army is the only entity that ever really payed me to write.  They made me a journalist for a while.



! My gal on leave !

Col. Sheena Johnson, U.S. Army


Duty World