New wave of warlords bedevils U.S.

New wave of warlords bedevils U.S.

In his teen years, Sirajuddin Haqqani was known among friends as a dandy. He cared more about the look of his thick black hair than the battles his father, a mujahideen warlord in the 1980s, was waging with Russia for control of Afghanistan.

The younger Mr. Haqqani is still a stylish sort, say those who know him. But now, approaching middle age and ensconced as the battlefield leader of his father’s militant army, he has become ruthless in his own pursuit of an Afghanistan free from foreign influence. This time the enemy is the U.S. and its allies.

From outposts along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, his Haqqani network is waging a campaign that has made the Afghan insurgency deadlier. He has widened the use of suicide attacks, which became a Taliban mainstay only in the past few years. U.S. officials believe his forces carried out the dramatic Monday gun, grenade and suicide-bomb attack in Kabul on Afghan government ministries and a luxury hotel. The assault claimed five victims plus seven attackers. [continued…]

Afghanistan’s holy violence

The Taliban’s spectacular attacks in Kabul yesterday took place just as the new cabinet members were taking their oath of office. In a report posted online on the Taliban website, their spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid listed the ministries under attack: the ministry of mining, the ministry of justice, and the ministry of finance. The Taliban’s message was clear: even though the ministers were taking charge of Hamid Karzai’s cabinet, the power in control of Kabul was not Karzai but the Taliban.

The ministers might not be used to the idea of dual governments, but outside Kabul Afghans have long learned to live under two parallel regimes, a daytime government run by President Karzai and a nighttime one run by the Taliban and other local strongmen. Ministers living in Kabul had been spared this unsettling reality until now, hiding as they do in bullet-proof cars, on blocked roads and behind the protective walls of Kabul’s green zone. But the reality outside the capital is otherwise and ordinary Afghans have learned to negotiate their daily routine around avoiding random violence by the Taliban and other troublemakers. Monday’s attacks might have given the ministers a taste of what life is like for a majority of Afghans, especially those who live in restive regions. [continued…]

After attack, Afghans question motives or see conspiracies

Twenty-four hours after seven insurgents stormed a shopping center in downtown Kabul and immobilized the city, the shoemakers who ply their trade in front of the mall were back in business on Tuesday.

Nearby, shopkeepers returned to hawk tapes of Madonna alongside recordings of Afghan and Bollywood stars, and a crowd of men joked with a man wearing a large shawl, because that was the same outfit the attackers wore on Monday to hide their guns.

Stoic about the assault, convinced that it would happen again and lacking faith in the government’s ability to stop such attacks, those who work near the sites that were attacked were most interested in the question of why the insurgents had not killed more civilians. [continued…]

Corruption widespread in Afghanistan, UNODC survey says

overty and violence are usually portrayed as the biggest challenges confronting Afghanistan. But ask the Afghans themselves, and you get a different answer: corruption is their biggest worry. A new UNODC survey reveals that an overwhelming 59 per cent of Afghans view public dishonesty as a bigger concern than insecurity (54 per cent) and unemployment (52 per cent).

Corruption in Afghanistan: Bribery as Reported by Victims [PDF] is based on interviews with 7,600 people in 12 provincial capitals and more than 1,600 villages around Afghanistan. It records the real experiences (rather than just perceptions) of urban as well as rural residents, men and women, between autumn 2008 and autumn 2009. [continued…]

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