peace talks postponed by taliban

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Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi & Rupam Jain

Editing by Darren Schuettler

Reuters

April 18, 2019

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KABUL (Reuters) – A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.

The talks were set to begin on Friday in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”

Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.

“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.

“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid told Reuters over phone, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.

The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with U.S. officials.

Ghani said Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban/peace-talks-postponed-as-taliban-objects-to-size-of-afghan-delegation-idUSKCN1RU0W2

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taliban face u.s. at peace talks

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by Mujib Mashal

New York Times

March 26, 2019

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DOHA, Qatar — When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban government, even those who surrendered were treated as terrorists: handcuffed, hooded and shipped to the American detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Now, in a stark demonstration of the twists and contradictions of the long American involvement in Afghanistan, five of those men are sitting across a negotiating table from their former captors, part of the Taliban team discussing the terms of an American troop withdrawal.

“During our time in Guantánamo, the feeling was with us that we had been brought there unjustly and that we would be freed,” said one of the former detainees, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa. “But it never occurred to me that one day there would be negotiations with them, and I would be sitting there with them on one side and us on the other.”

The five senior Taliban officials were held at Guantánamo for 13 years before catching a lucky break in 2014. They were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known American service member to be held by the insurgents as a prisoner of war.

In recent months, as the Americans and militants took up intense negotiations to try to end the conflict in Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership made a point of including the former prisoners. Each day during the recent round of talks in Doha, Qatar, the five men sat face to face with American diplomats and generals.

During days of slow and at times frustrated discussions at the most recent session, which ended on March 12, it was the Taliban side that was often more emotional. Some gave impassioned speeches about how vital it was that the Americans completely leave Afghanistan in as little as six months.

The usual response from the American side, led by senior envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, was to give detailed technical explanations about why withdrawing was complex and needed to be slower, perhaps over years.

But other than Mullah Khairkhwa, the former detainees seemed more reluctant to speak, officials involved in the talks said. When they did address the group, they seemed less harsh or strident than some of the other Taliban negotiators, perhaps mellowed by years of hardship or wary that their freedom could be fragile. Over the past few years, they have stayed in Doha and have been reunited with their families, but remain under watch by the Qatari authorities at the request of the United States.

The five former Guantánamo detainees had varying roles during the Taliban government reign. Mullah Khairkhwa served as a governor and acting minister of interior. Abdul Haq Wasiq was deputy minister of intelligence.

Perhaps the most infamous figure in the group is Mullah Fazel Mazloom, a front-line commander who was also chief of the Taliban army. While accusations of human rights abuses by the others have generally remained vague, there seems to be considerably more evidence against Mullah Mazloom, who is accused of mass killings and scorched-earth brutality.

During an initial tribunal hearing at Guantánamo — The New York Times obtained the transcript via the Freedom of Information Act — Mullah Mazloom (his last name means “meek”) showed no remorse.

“There is a 25-year war person to person, village by village, city by city, province by province, and tribe against tribe,” he told the tribunal. “If you think this is a crime, then every person in Afghanistan should be in prison.”

Still, he insisted: “I never fought against the new government. I never fought against America.”

In their introductions around the table as negotiations started last month, the five men held up their detention at Guantánamo as the most important part of their identity.

“In important moments like this, my own personal troubles don’t come to mind,” Mullah Khairkhwa said in the interview, after the negotiations had ended. “I am really not thinking about who is sitting across from me and what they had done to me.”

“What is important is what we are talking about,” he said, “and what is in it for our interests, for our goal and for our country.”

The men’s Guantánamo files include several notations about uncooperative behavior and instigations, including throwing milk at guards and tearing up their mattresses in protest.

Listed in Mullah Khairkhwa’s record, along with making disruptive noises or refusing to eat or shower at times, is this: trying to kill himself and urging others to kill themselves. But in his tribunal hearing, Mr. Khairkhwa denied having done so.

“There was no spoon in my meal, so I asked the guard for a spoon,” Mullah Khairkhwa said, according to the transcript. “Other detainees also shouted that they did not have spoons, either. The sergeant said he was sorry and from orders of his boss he could not provide me with a spoon.”

“When I asked the reason,” Mullah Khairkhwa added, “he said that I was trying to kill myself and encourage others to do the same.”

Most of the men were detained and sent to Guantánamo after they had surrendered — or even after they had started cooperating with the leadership of the new government the United States had installed in Afghanistan.

At the time of his arrest, Mullah Khairkhwa had retreated to private life in his family’s home village, and had reached out to President Hamid Karzai, who came to power in the wake of the American invasion.

Mullah Khairkhwa, according to his Guantánamo documents, was accused of narcotics trafficking and of closely associating with Osama bin Laden’s men in Al Qaeda. He denied both accusations in his hearings.

The former Taliban government deputy intelligence chief, Mr. Wasiq, had come to a meeting with C.I.A. operatives to discuss cooperation with American and Afghan officials. But he and some of his associates who had come along were bound and taken away, with at least one of them rolled up in a carpet.

Mullah Mazloom had surrendered to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek strongman in northern Afghanistan whose militia allied with American Special Operations forces. General Dostum sent thousands of Mullam Mazloom’s men to an overcrowded prison, and his militia killed hundreds — if not thousands — of those foot soldiers after an insurrection in the prison.

Mullah Mazloom and some others were eventually turned over to the Americans.

A timeline for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a stubborn sticking point during the long days of talks. But an even more frustrating issue has been how to define who is a terrorist and who is not. That definition is central as the United States has tried to seek assurances from the Taliban that Afghan territory will not again be used as a staging ground for terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.

When they were toppled and hunted down, the Taliban were an oppressive regime, denying citizens basic rights, including keeping women and girls out of school and behind house walls. In the group’s 18-year insurgency since, they have resorted to acts of terrorism like truck bombings that have caused mass civilian casualties.

But now that the United States’ priority has shifted to withdrawal, and out of the pragmatic need to negotiate with the Taliban, American envoys have turned to parsing words to find some definition of terrorism they can hold in common with the Taliban.

In some of the sessions sitting across the table from the former Guantánamo detainees was Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in his four-star uniform. Last October, General Miller narrowly escaped death in an attack by a Taliban infiltrator that killed a prominent Afghan security chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, who had been walking beside him in a heavily guarded compound in Kandahar Province.

According to several officials on both sides who knew details of the talks, General Miller told the Taliban that he respected them as fighters, but that the war needed to end. He also evoked a mutual need to fight the terrorism of the Islamic State.

“We could keep fighting, keep killing each other,” General Miller was quoted as saying. “Or, together, we could kill ISIS.”

Mullah Khairkhwa said that even though the two sides had not been able to reach a final agreement this time, the two sides shared a common interest, at least, in ending the war.

“It’s been a long war, with lots of casualties and destruction and loss,” he said. “What gives me hope is that both teams are taking the issue seriously. On every issue, the discussions are serious, and it gives me hope that we will find a way out — as long as there are not spoilers to ruin it.”

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editor

Rawclyde

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Peace In Afghanistan

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Voice of Jihad

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

July 2015

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Peace is a natural demand of every human being, the very secret behind prosperity and development. The well-being of a nation lies in peace. Peace is a need for a society as water is for a fish. Prior to anything our beloved country needs durable peace. No doubt, our peace loving nation is craving for peace.

To demand peace is easy. Every person can raise voice for peace but peace will only be achieved and established in light of ground realities and through consideration of views and opinions of the people. It cannot be achieved by mere assertions. Rather it needs practical steps like removal of hurdles in the way of peace, establishment of an atmosphere of confidence and trust and initiation of a wise process.

Unfortunately, the current situation in our beloved country is heading towards use of force instead of peace advancement. Despite repeated promises, the invaders have not withdrawn from the battle field. Night raids and blind bombardments are still continuing. The officials of Kabul Administration are using peace for their own political objectives and propaganda. It shows that they have no commitment for peace because despite their hues and cries for peace they launched military operations in different parts of the country in severe cold weather last year. They had destroyed homes and gardens of common people and these destructive operations are still continuing. These activities on the part of the invaders and the Kabul administration have paved the way for continuation of the war.

Following points should be considered for peace.

1. Commitment and sincerity are the foremost elements for the peace process. A peace process which is also an Islamic obligation should not be used as a tool for deception, cunning and accusation of the opposite side. First of all those who want peace and working in the peace process should fear Allah, the Almighty. They should feel responsibility and should not play with the future of the oppressed nation.

2. Peace requires deep thoughts and discussions. A minor mistake in peace process could bring in enormous problems to our nation.

3. Peace requires serious moves based on realities otherwise it will deteriorate the peace process and pave the way for prolongation of war. Therefore, all the steps should be taken very carefully.

4. An important point in a peace process is the realization of the sentiments of opposite side. Peace should not be dubbed as surrender. Those who desire peace should not use it as an instrument of propaganda.

Islamic Emirate has repeatedly stated its commitment for a sustainable peace and has made efforts in this regards. As such, has put forward sensible strategy regarding peace process in different official and unofficial meetings. The end of occupation and establishment of an Islamic system has been determined as the primary goals of their legitimate struggle and sacred Jihad. Like in the past, the Islamic Emirate wants peace today and will strive for it in future as well. But the peace process should have some indications of commitment, sincerity and transparency. Ground realities should be taken into account because following a mirage in a dry desert has no meaning.

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Afghan Gov’t Mustering 2nd Taliban Talk

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Xinhua Chinese Newspaper

Kabul

July 22, 2015

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The Afghan government has been preparing for the second round of peace talks with the Taliban, reported a local newspaper on Wednesday.

“Preparations are now underway for the second round of peace negotiation talks with the Taliban,” Daily Outlook Afghanistan quoted Shahzada Shahid, Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) spokesman, as saying.

The first face-to-face talks between a delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives took place in Pakistan earlier this month and both sides agreed to hold a second round of talks by the end of this month.

The peace body has appointed an executive committee for purpose of finalizing the agenda of the upcoming meeting in close consultation with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, political figures and other government leaders, Shahid said in the report.

The Afghan government set up a 70-member HPC and launched the peace and reconciliation process in 2010 to encourage Taliban militant group to disarm and give up militancy against the government.

However, the hope for peace in the country has been revived after Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, announced this month his group’s readiness to join the peace dialogue with the Afghan government.

Before the first meeting between the Taliban and the government team in Pakistan, President Ghani said that the preliminary peace negotiations will discuss three main issues, including ways to turn the meeting into a continuous process, undertaking confidence building measures and preparing a list of important issues to be put on the agenda of the next round of peace negotiations, according to media reports.

Among other topics, the ceasefire might have been the main issue of the upcoming negotiations while the exact location of the talks still remained unknown.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-07/22/c_134436589.htm

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Talks Boost Peace Process

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by Farid Behbud

Xinhua Chinese Newspaper

July 10, 2015

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KABUL — The first face-to-face talks between a delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Pakistan have revived hopes for peace and normalcy to return to the war-torn Afghanistan.

“I think the initial talks would give further push to the peace process and enhance national reconciliation. It is the first time that the representatives of the Taliban and the Haqqani network took part in direct talks with the government of Afghanistan,” Ghafoor Jawid, a respected political analyst, told Tolo News, a local publication.

The much-awaited peace talks since the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001 were held in Pakistan’s scenic town Murree near Islamabad on Tuesday and both sides agreed to hold the second round of talks after Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month.

A four-member delegation headed by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai represented the Afghan government in the talks.

On the same day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the media that the preliminary peace negotiations will discuss three main issues, including ways to turn the meeting into a continuous process, undertaking confidence building measures and preparing a list of important issues to be put on the agenda of the next round of peace negotiations.”

During a meeting with Afghan political experts, analysts and media workers, Ghani said regional and global states as well as the Taliban outfit have realized that the Afghan security forces are invincible, so the government of Afghanistan will participate in the negotiations from a stronger position.

However, Zabihullah Mujahid, who claims to speak for the Taliban, has expressed ignorance over holding the peace talks. He said he would share with the media if he receives information about the talks with Afghan government.

Jawid said he and his countrymen are hopeful that the initial talks could serve as a basis for further negotiations that could result in achieving lasting peace in the country.

When asked why the two sides did not reach an agreement for setting a ceasefire, Jawid said what happened were just the initial talks and the issue of a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities could be tackled in the next round of talks.

“As both Afghan government and Taliban agreed to continue talks, more time will be needed for them to reach an agreement regarding the ceasefire, and that the ceasefire would definitely be discussed in the upcoming second round of talks,” Jawid said.

However, some local analysts disagreed with Jawid’s point of view.

“I am not very optimistic as to the outcome of the initial talks between the Taliban and the government simply because the Taliban representatives to the talks were minor functionaries and not their leaders,” another respected Afghan analyst, Mir Ahmad Joyanda, told Xinhua in an interview Thursday.

Joyanda, a communications and research expert, said if the Taliban were sincere they should have sent their top leaders to the talks.

According to Joyanda, the emergence of the Daesh (Islamic State) may have prompted the Taliban to agree to the initial talks with the government. He said the Taliban have realized that some of its more radical members have switched side to the IS.

Joyanda also noted that while the Taliban was holding initial talks with the government, they have carried suicide attacks and ambuscades in different parts of the country, thus putting its sincerity to work for peace into question.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-07/10/c_134399448.htm

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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 wordpress.com 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!

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Young Afghan Mamoodia pulls an arrow out of her quiver

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https://oldtimerchronicle2.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/a-new-breed-in-the-village

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Yours truly

Rawclyde

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Ants

by Rawclyde!

Thousands of ants

Tumble across the raggedy ground

At the feet of Col. Sheena Johnson

& her faithful hubby Habibullah

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The couple sit cross-legged honing arrowheads of Sufi bliss

In front of the commander’s imported Native American teepee

“I’ve never seen a horde of ants like this,” says ex-Talib Habibullah

“I wonder where they are going?”

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Elder Haji Mujadooti having trudged up the mountain-ridge trail

Stands out of breath amidst the horde of ants, tries to say something

He slaps his pants frantically, falls down, rolls around spastically

Thus disrupting the peaceful scene with idiotic old-man antics

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Covered head to toe with angry biting ants

He heroically stands up & despite the pain he is suffering

Says to Habibulla’s infidel wife,  “Do something, Sheena!

Our courageous Afghan soldiers are dying below!”

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Ahhh!

The commander knows Afghanistan

She knows Taliban & she knows ants too

She arises

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The empress of the Afghaneeland village of Pluckame

Pulls Haji Mujadooti out of the jam in which he stands

“Darling husband, please tend to this poor wise man”

Habibullah smiles, arises & does as bidden

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Barefoot, Sheena steps into the rapidly moving horde of angry ants

Not one lousy insect crawls onto one toe of the formidable goddess

She stands erect as the Rock of Gibraltar & prays to St. Joan of Arizona

Who in a distant land relays the message to heaven

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And by God, Sheena’s Sufi bow materializes in her held out hand

Sufi armor crackles sparsely here & there on her outrageously perfect body

She picks up a freshly cut & carved & honed world-peace arrow

Fits it to the bow string, aims, shuts her eyes, let’s it go

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The cosmic forces of the universe gather upon the arrowhead point

Thrust forward into the oblivion of every Taliban brain below

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Sufi Bubble

& divine revelations explode!!! 

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Suddenly beyond anybody’s wildest expectation

There are no more Taliban in the tumultuous nation of Afghanistan

The insurgents have transformed into the silliest looking little ants ever seen

All carrying rifles tinier than toothpicks

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Pvt. Ghani Gandhara gut-shot and breathing his last breath

Picks up one of these purple insects on the end of his thumb & smiles

The Afghan National Army defending the nation’s new democracy shall prevail

Pvt. Gandhara leaps beyond the veil… 

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Text / Copyright Clyde Collins 2014

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Col. Sheena Johnson at the helm of

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Sufi Bubble

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Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

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Attack On Peace Council Man…

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by Haleem

Xinhua News

June 23, 2014

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KABUL, June 23 — A suicide bomber blew up his explosive-laden car next to the bullet-proof vehicle of Masoom Stanikzai, secretariat chief for the government-backed High Peace Council, on Saturday (2 weeks ago) in Kabul City, killing the suicide bomber and a passerby and injuring three others but Stanikzai narrowly escaped, according to the police.

Local political observers believe that the brazen attack against the high-rank member of the government-backed peace body was a major blow to the government-initiated peace process with the Taliban militants. “Since one of the policies of Taliban outfit is to target and physically eliminate peacemaking and peace loving personalities, their attack on Mr. Stanikzai on Saturday would damage the ongoing peace process,” a political analyst and editor in chief of the newspaper Daily Afghanistan, Mohammad Reza Hweda, said in talks with Xinhua.

The High Peace Council, in a statement released hours after the suicide attack, blamed “the enemies of peace” in Afghanistan for the attack and strongly condemned it. “The terrorists and the enemies of Afghanistan, by staging the suicide attack against Stanikzai, was an attempt to physically eliminate him and deprive the country of a patriotic citizen and also to block the peace process from pushing through,” the statement said.

Although the “enemies of peace” is a term used by Afghan officials against the Taliban militants, the government-backed High Peace Council did not directly put the blame on any specific group or individual behind the attack.

Stanikzai, who is a an adviser to President Hamid Karzai, is a staunch supporter of peace talks with the Taliban and is hopeful that efforts for negotiation with militants would soon lead to national reconciliation and peace in the strife-torn country.

Established in 2010, the High Peace Council is authorized to contact the Taliban militants and other similar groups to lay down arms and join the government. “The government should have a clear definition from the enemies of peace. The government has to tell the people who the enemies of peace are, otherwise, the people would get confused,” Hweda told Xinhua.

Taliban militants fighting the government have repeatedly rejected President Hamid Karzai government’s offer for peace talks, saying there will be no talks with the Kabul administration as long as foreign troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

Even though the public opinion in Kabul has blamed Taliban militants for the attack on Stanikzai, the militant group has yet to claim responsibility.

Taliban militants, in a suicide attack in September 2011, also targeted Stanikzai’s former chief, chairman of High Peace Council Burhanudin Rabbani in his Kabul residence, killing Rabbani along with four of his bodyguards. In that attack Stanikzai was also injured.

The majority of the Afghan people believe that the Taliban militants do not really want peace but want to return to power through an armed struggle and re-impose their brutal brand of Islamic rule in the country.

According to Afghan analysts, no ranking Taliban leaders have joined the government-initiated peace process over the past couple of years, even though the government has freed hundreds of militants from prisons.

The freed detainees in many cases have rejoined their former comrades and began fighting the Afghan forces and NATO-led forces stationed in Afghanistan.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-06/23/c_133430100.htm

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How will Taliban Respond to Elections?

Tali
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by Thomas Omestad
U.S. Institute of Peace
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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As Afghanistan moves toward April 5 elections for president and provincial councils, key questions loom: Among them, just what will the Taliban do to disrupt or distort that nation’s exercise in democratically selecting its leadership, and what might those efforts accomplish?

Two Peace Briefs recently published by the Institute lay out contrasting takes on those questions. Yet taken together, they illuminate an urgent issue that is shrouded by several factors: rapidly evolving circumstances, the internal complexity of the Taliban and the sheer opacity of its decision-making and follow-through. These two pieces offer much for anyone trying to understand Afghanistan’s internal conflict at a critical moment in its history.

U.S. and allied governments are focused on the April political contests as a vital opportunity for the Afghan government to demonstrate its legitimacy as the presidency of Hamid Karzai ends and as foreign military forces fighting alongside the Afghan Army prepare to withdraw. It is to be the first democratic transfer of power from one Afghan president to another, and relative success could provide a boost to the country’s stability as the United States and others end combat operations and Afghan forces take on full security responsibilities.

If Afghanistan can overcome logistical challenges, possible attempts at vote manipulation and Taliban threats and still run generally credible and transparent elections, then the government’s standing among Afghans will be strengthened, as will its position in future peace talks with the Taliban, should they happen.

The general Taliban line has been that elections cannot be allowed as long as foreign troops remain in Afghanistan and that the United States, in particular, will have a dominant hand in shaping the outcome.

Indications of the violence to come have appeared even two months before the polls open. On February 1, two members of the campaign team of former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, one of the leading candidates to succeed Karzai, were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the city of Herat.

“The attack came at a critical moment for Afghanistan on the eve of the election campaign,” said a statement issued by United Nations Special Representative Jan Kubis. “This cowardly action constitutes a violent intimidation of electoral candidates and their supporters, and cannot be tolerated.” Kubis called for heightened vigilance in the weeks before the elections and for efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The USIP Peace Briefs, in differing ways, anticipate moves by at least parts of the Taliban to launch violent, election-related attacks.

In the first paper, “Electoral Offensive: Taliban Planning for Afghanistan’s 2014 National Elections,” authors Antonio Giustozzi and Casey Garret Johnson note that “the Taliban have more resources and are better organized to disrupt Afghanistan’s 2014 national elections than was the case in any of the country’s last four elections. Still, there are disagreements between insurgent leaders about carrying out a campaign of violence and intimidation.”

Giustozzi, an independent researcher and expert on the Taliban who is associated with King’s College London, and Johnson, a senior program officer at USIP, offer a fascinating glimpse into Taliban thinking on the election that is based on more than 50 interviews last spring with Taliban foot soldiers, subcommanders and leaders. What they reveal is more internal disagreement—suggestive of widely varying levels of anti-election activity—than might be expected.

One group of Taliban led by Akhtar Mansur and tied to the Quetta Shura leaned toward a more conciliatory approach, at least for a period of time, Giustozzi and Johnson say. Some Taliban even met with Afghan government figures “to discuss allowing the polls to go forward.” However, disrupting the election is favored by Taliban military commander Zakir and the Peshawar Shura, the authors say. Their research indicates that the Peshawar group is more unified in its stand against elections and better funded.

The Taliban have created a network of so-called “electoral commissions” in part to convince influential elders not to vote in elections. However, in at least some areas, Taliban operatives bought rather than destroyed voters’ cards, copied them and returned them to elders with instructions to wait for orders, according to the Giustozzi-Johnson paper. That leaves at least the possibility that Taliban in some areas will seek to influence instead of undermine elections.

Adding further uncertainty, fighters in some areas might cut local deals with candidates or power brokers in which the Taliban refrain from election attacks. That sort of bargaining has occurred in past elections, they say.

In general, “the prospect of disruption is particularly worrying because Taliban influence is greatest in the Pashtun south and east. The suppression of turnout in Pashtun areas could lead to an indefinite suspension of the polls or an outcome seen as illegitimate by those unable to vote,” the authors say. Attributing attacks to particular Taliban factions will also be difficult, in practice.

The second Peace Brief, “The Taliban’s View of the 2014 Elections,” observes that the Taliban publicly reject the legitimacy of the elections and have ordered their disruption—but have also “left field commanders with wide discretion on how to go about doing so.”

This piece is written by Michael Semple, a visiting professor and conflict specialist at Queen’s University Belfast, and draws on interviews with Taliban conducted between November and January.

Semple concludes that within the Taliban there is “no scope for any faction to cooperate” with the election process, though many follow the political races and comment on them in ways similar to the political class in Kabul. And, he argues, whatever intensity of violence emerges prior to the election, it is unlikely to “derail the overall process.”

The Taliban movement is hierarchical, with Mullah Omar retaining supreme authority. At all levels, Semple notes, Taliban say they are “boycotting” the elections.

But counter to the hierarchical tendency, the movement also functions like “a fraternity [which] means that local commanders and officials can use a high degree of discretion in choosing how they will conduct this opposition [to the elections],” Semple explains. That flexibility, or variation, in how the contests are opposed is a point of agreement with Giustozzi and Johnson. This aspect of Taliban structure will mean significant uncertainty about the scope of anti-election activity, probably up to the last moment.

Indeed, Semple says that some Taliban field commanders in eastern Afghanistan “expressed dissent” about general guidance to proceed with disrupting the elections, reportedly because they depend upon “maintaining local popular consent” to operate in some areas and attacks on civilians would undermine that. At the same time, in some provinces such as Ghazni, Afghan media have described cases of Taliban targeting civilians who have registered to vote. Such violence, Semple says, did not succeed in derailing the national voter registration campaign, in which 3.4 million additional cards were handed out last year.

He also refers to “rifts between pragmatists and hardliners” within the movement over whether to plan attacks on provincial council candidates.

Semple suggests that a 25 percent rise in violent incidents during the election period over what would have happened anyway is a “realistic” expectation. “Groups in the provinces will carry out more attacks than they would have otherwise, but the increase in violence will be less dramatic and widespread than hoped for by Taliban hardliners or predicted by their propagandists,” Semple writes.

Voting would likely be reduced in the rural south, southeast and east and generally in Pashtun areas, where the Taliban has more influence.

Semple believes that “the most significant impact of Taliban pressure” ultimately may not be the mayhem they unleash but rather the opportunities for electoral fraud they creates. How? The threat of Taliban attacks “will help create a category of stations which are difficult to monitor and inaccessible to voters and polling agents.” Any efforts to commit large-scale voting fraud, he argues, are likely to be concentrated in those areas.

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U.S. Institute of Peace

http://www.usip.org/category/countries/afghanistan

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Art courtesy of Ian Boa

http://www.ianboe.com/IB.html

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A Legacy Under Construction

Canada has spent $50 million on Dahla Dam in Afghanistan…

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By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

February 18, 2014

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SHAH WALI KOT, Afghanistan — It is one of Canada’s main legacies in Afghanistan, meant to bring prosperity and jobs and win the hearts and minds of the Afghans in Kandahar province. And it still isn’t fully functioning.

Situated around 35 kilometres north of Kandahar City, the massive Dahla Dam has been visited by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who highlighted it as one of his government’s “signature projects” in this destitute South Asian country. Bev Oda, then the international co-operation minister, called it “one of Canada’s most significant contributions to the Afghan people.”

When Canada’s diplomats, development specialists and soldiers left Kandahar in 2011, our involvement with the dam ended and the government declared the $50-million project a success. But even now, water doesn’t reach 30 per cent of the 500 kilometres of canals that Canada paid to refurbish, according to the U.S. army Corps of Engineers. That’s because the dam itself is not expected to be fully functional until at least 2017.

Afghan farmers told Canadian government officials 13 years ago that for the silt-clogged dam to work, it would have to be raised so more water could be trapped in the reservoir. Better yet, they said, build a new dam.

The job of raising the dam, which will cost between $150 million to $250 million, now falls to the U.S. government.

Some Afghans in the area blame the Canadians for not doing it, although that was never the publicly stated goal of the project. Others say much of the Canadian funding was wasted since it went to pay for security or high-priced foreign contractors and not Afghan labourers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada won’t detail how the money was spent, saying it cannot divulge a breakdown of the figures because it has to protect the commercial privacy of the firms involved. SNC-Lavalin, the main contractor, also won’t release a breakdown.

Accounting and accountability aside, Canadian diplomats and military officers say the work on the dam has been a resounding success. They say it provides water for farmers to irrigate large tracts of land, allowing them to grow various crops such as pomegranates. If people can make a living, Canadian officials say, support for the insurgents is undercut.

The Citizen recently visited the dam but at the insistence of the Kandahar governor’s office travelled with seven heavily armed bodyguards for protection against the Taliban as well as rogue police officers who might take the opportunity to harass foreign journalists for bribes. Contractors paid for by the U.S. government were working on fixing equipment at the site’s intake tower. Water at the base of the dam’s earthen wall was thick with brown sludge from the buildup of silt.

Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, whose command oversees domestic and military missions, was in Kabul in November and received a briefing from Canadian diplomats.

“The update I got was the investment made has had a huge positive impact already, agriculturally, water management, the whole nine yards,” he said. “Notwithstanding that it may not be at a particular end state or end date, the investment has paid out and it continues to pay out.”

Foreign Affairs says the project created 5,000 seasonal jobs, although some Kandahar residents doubt that actually happened. They suggest much of the money instead went to well-connected Afghans and high-priced foreign contractors, and they may have a point.

An estimated $10 million of the $50 million was spent on security, with an undisclosed amount paid to Watan Risk Management, a controversial firm providing for-hire gunmen and run by two Afghan men, Rashid and Rateb Popal.

Both have been convicted of drug-related crimes and Rateb has also been accused by a U.S. congressman of once being an interpreter for the Taliban.

Numerous reports state the men are related to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but a lawyer for the two denies that is the case. The U.S. military tried to blacklist Watan after allegations surfaced that bribes may have been paid to the Taliban. The firm has denied any wrongdoing…

0215afghanistan_web

…U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan, however, did raise concerns in 2009 about the Dahla Dam project, alleging that it was being used by the Karzai family to consolidate its power in the region and to reward friends. They also noted the Watan connection to the project.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was so concerned that it sent a confidential cable to Washington, later obtained by WikiLeaks, that highlighted the involvement of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s younger brother. The cable also highlighted the role of Watan’s Rashid Popal, who the diplomats stated was a cousin of Ahmed Wali Karzai.

The Americans described Ahmed Wali Karzai, also known as AWK, as the “kingpin of Kandahar” who headed a network of political clans that used state institutions to “protect and enable licit and illicit enterprises.”

The U.S. diplomats also warned that the Karzai family was trying to increase its political dominance over two of the most valuable resources in Kandahar — fertile land and water.

“Production and land values there will increase greatly as a result of Canada’s “signature” rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and irrigation works,” the U.S. diplomats warned. “Karzai businesses are also set to acquire multiple patronage benefits from Dahla Dam construction and security contracts but the main prize will be political control over long-term allocation of water flows.”

AWK, described by the Americans as “widely unpopular” in Kandahar for the way he wielded his power, successfully lobbied Canada on behalf of the Watan security company, the cable added.

Another 2009 report from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul noted that the Canadians were worried about Ahmed Wali Karzai and his suspected ties to the illegal drug trade.

AWK was assassinated in 2011 by his bodyguard and while the Taliban took credit, some suggest the killing may have been linked to his criminal activities.

Romel Punsalan, who oversees work on the Dahla Dam for the U.S. army Corps of Engineers, is aware of some of the controversy surrounding the project.

But he is more focused these days on trying to get the dam up to full capacity. Workers are fixing valves and the intake tower and are expected to be done by early 2015.

After that the Americans plan to raise the height of the dam by five metres. That should improve the volume of available water and deal with the silt that has built up over the last 60 years. It should also allow the irrigation ditches cleaned under the Canadian program to be fully utilized.

Punsalan hopes work on that phase will start this summer and be completed by 2017.

But he doesn’t know how it might be affected by the U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“I’m not sure what will happen,” Punsalan said from Kabul. “All I’m directed to do is continue planning and moving forward.”

The Dahla Dam is not the only such project to run into problems. About 95 kilometres northwest of Kandahar City is the Kajaki Dam, the main source of electricity for Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Like Dahla, it was built in the 1950s by an American company and deteriorated because of a lack of maintenance. Kajaki’s turbines still operate, albeit inefficiently.

The Taliban in the area have constantly attacked coalition troops and prevented any significant repairs. Dozens of soldiers have been killed in the ongoing clashes, including Canadian Forces Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede, a military photographer whose helicopter was shot down near Kajaki in 2007.

The ongoing problems were highlighted by Canadian Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, who warned that the situation was hindering international efforts in the province. “The lack of access to electricity continues to be one of the top concerns of the people of Kandahar, a problem which has been exacerbated by a turbine failure at Kajaki Dam,” Gauthier wrote in a February 2008 report obtained by the Citizen.

“The people of Kandahar continue to see an imbalance between (reconstruction and development) efforts conducted versus their stated needs. Specifically, they state that unemployment and lack of electricity are their greatest concerns but do not see corresponding (reconstruction and development) effort in those specific efforts.”

To improve the availability of electricity, NATO mounted one of its largest military operations in 2008: An estimated 4,000 soldiers, most of them British, were involved in transporting a new turbine from Kandahar Airfield to the Kajaki Dam.

The mission was heralded as one of the British army’s biggest success stories from Afghanistan.

Ultimately though, the effort was a failure. It was too difficult to truck in the cement needed to build a pad for the new turbine because of insurgent attacks. The Chinese company hired to install the machinery abandoned the project because it was too dangerous. The turbine sits, rusting, in a dirt lot near the dam, according to reports.

The U.S. government is now paying an American firm to install the turbine and other work will be done to refurbish the hydroelectric power system. The work on the $500-million project is ongoing and it’s unclear when the turbine will be installed, if ever.

In July 2013, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress his office remains “concerned about the prospects of success at Kajaki.”

In the meantime, with the Kajaki Dam still not functioning properly, the U.S. military has tried to solve Kandahar’s energy shortage a different way. In 2011 it paid for the installation of large, gas-powered generators in the city, capable of producing 20 megawatts of power.

The Americans will cover the $106-million cost of the generators and fuel until 2015.

After that, Kandahar City may be back to square one without a reliable source of electrical power; the Afghans can’t afford the fuel needed to keep the generators running.

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On Their Own

After more than a decade of war, Canadian soldiers — and the rest of the West — are about to pull out of Afghanistan for good. Are Afghans ready to go it alone?

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KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan — A cigarette butt and a half-eaten plate of rice lie on the polished stone of what used to be known as the Camp Nathan Smith Memorial Square. The square, named after one of the first Canadians to die in this volatile country, was once a place of honour, where photos of some of the Canadian soldiers killed were displayed and Remembrance Day ceremonies were held. Today, weeds dominate the former base for Canada’s provincial reconstruction team.

At the height of the war, the camp was home to 300 Canadian soldiers and 80 civilians, including development workers, diplomats and police, and was the cornerstone of Canada’s reconstruction and aid efforts in Kandahar province.

The installation now houses a small number of Afghan security forces, but even they don’t want to stay. Afghans want to turn it into a women’s centre, though they don’t have the money to do that and international donors aren’t interested.

So the base sits and slowly falls apart.

Thirteen years after the West went into Afghanistan to take out al-Qaida and the Taliban and then build up the country so they could not return, there is a war-weary desire to cut and run that wasn’t here before.

Although it is expected that some training personnel and advisers from the United States and other nations will remain, the pullout is in full swing.

In the north of the country, the Norwegians have closed down their provincial reconstruction team. In the southeast, the Australians have yanked their combat troops.

And in mid-March, a small group of Canadian soldiers will haul down the Maple Leaf flag at their base in Kabul and walk onto a transport aircraft for the flight home, the last to serve in Canada’s largest military deployment since the Second World War.

In the haste to get out, much is being left behind. U.S. soldiers are chopping up armoured vehicles, which cost $1 million each, and selling them to Afghan scrap-dealers for a couple of hundred dollars. Sea containers full of equipment are stacked on the outskirts of Kandahar, the contents ready to be auctioned off to local bidders.

What can’t be moved or sold is simply abandoned. In Helmand province, a $34-million state-of-the-art military command centre built by the U.S. army sits empty. Around Kandahar, bases that once housed international troops are deserted.

But there’s a gulf between walking away from some buildings and walking away from a mission that didn’t turn out exactly as planned. So as the remaining soldiers snap up T-shirts that say “Whoever leaves last, please turn out the lights,” the question on many people’s minds is simple: Can the Afghans, alone, find their way in the dark?

The first Canadian troops — a few dozen commandos — arrived in late 2001 in support of the U.S. bid to eliminate al-Qaida. Early the next year, 750 regular forces joined them. After those initial efforts in the Kandahar region, the military settled into what was essentially a peace support operation focused on Kabul. Security was provided for the 2004 Afghan elections, soldiers patrolled parts of the city, while some development work, such as digging wells and making repairs to buildings, was also done.

The mission ramped up in 2005 when the Liberal government supported the recommendation by the Canadian military leadership to send combat troops to Kandahar province. The following year the Conservative government extended what was supposed to have been a limited mission, setting in motion a period of intense warfare the likes of which Canadians had not seen since the Korean conflict.

That same year, Canada signed on to the Afghanistan Compact, an agreement between the government of Afghanistan and the international community to support the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. This included a pledge to take measures to increase security, strengthen human rights and the rule of law, and promote economic and social development. Those goals were amplified by the 2008 Manley report, which advised the government to extend the military mission past 2009, while refocusing the civilian side of the mission on aid that would directly benefit the Afghan people. It recommended the creation of “signature” projects that could be used to showcase Canada’s efforts on behalf of Afghans.

The government accepted many of the report’s recommendations, and adopted three signature projects: the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system, the construction of 50 schools in Kandahar, and the eradication of polio throughout the country.

For Canada’s senior diplomats and military leadership, the Kandahar mission unfolded in an atmosphere of optimism.

Col. Steve Bowes, who headed the first provincial reconstruction team in 2005, predicted the insurgents would be defeated within two years. Two years after that, retired Gen. Paul Manson, once Canada’s top military officer, wrote that the Taliban could lay no claim to any military successes and that they were in trouble. Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier went further, suggesting the insurgents were on the verge of defeat, teetering on their “back foot” as he liked to say.

With the insight that comes with hindsight, Canadian Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, who has commanded a number of times in Afghanistan, today acknowledges the gulf between the optimistic statements and how events unfolded.

“The list of how much we didn’t know was quite substantial, vis-a-vis the nature of the challenge that had been allowed to emerge,” said Beare, the commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command. “So our understanding of what we were getting into versus the reality had to be discovered by doing.”

The Canadian Forces, he added, learned and adapted quickly.

Though not all targets were met, Canadian government and military officials look back on the 12-year Afghan mission with pride. Officers point out that coalition military efforts pushed al-Qaida out of Afghanistan, denying the terrorist organization a training base.

The final government report on the Kandahar mission, released in March 2012, found that Canada had achieved 33 of its 44 development targets, including one of its signature projects of building 52 schools and the training of more than 3,000 teachers.

There is no doubt development efforts have had some success…

Continue reading

Goats & Spiritualities

sufi_dance_by_artforheart_faded

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by Rawclyde!

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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 ~ https://oldtimerchronicle2.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/the-afghaneeland-adventure-series ~ 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.

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Jungle_Girl_Cover_lll_by_Adrianohq

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Sufi Dance

by Asghar Ghoncheh Pour

http://artforheart.deviantart.com

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Jungle Girl Cover III

by Adriano Batista

http://www.swapsale.com/junglegirl.htm

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