Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Children of Taliban

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist who has been working in Pakistan and Afghanistan documenting the rise of the Taliban and other radical factions since 2001. She is working on a pilot project to counter radicalization in Pakistan and is writing her first book. TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” hosts talks on many subjects and makes them available through its website.

Source: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Inside a school for suicide bombers

Sharmeen speaks at a TED event about the dynamics of the suicide bombers and terrorism with a different perspective.

Sharmeen’s full interview with CNN is here.

The Taliban are running suicide schools inside Pakistan, preparing a generation of boys for atrocities against civilians.In my documentary on the subject, “Children of the Taliban,” I came across the cases of many young men who were committed to giving up their lives for what they believed to be the glory of Islam. Fifteen-year-old Zainullah blew himself up, killing six people. Another boy, Sadiq, killed 22 and Masood killed 28.

Since more than 60 percent of the population of Pakistan is under age 25, it seems there will always be a steady supply of recruits waiting to create havoc in the country.The Tehreek-i-Taliban and the various extremist organizations that have been allowed to fester across the country have now joined hands, increasing the reach of their network, sharing recruits, plans, training centers, materials and safe houses.

It was only a matter of time before this would happen, since the Pakistani government’s flawed policy of fighting “Bad Taliban” –those who carry out attacks inside Pakistan — and turning a blind eye to “Good Taliban” — those who carry out attacks outside Pakistan — was bound to come back and haunt them and it has.

Since 2003, the number of suicide bombings has grown exponentially across Pakistan. In 2009, 78 attacks occurred across the country; this year more than 29 attacks have taken place. The Tehreek-i-Taliban is boasting that they have an army of suicide bombers waiting in the ranks to carry out more attacks at their command — and I believe them.

This is no ragtag army fighting in the mountains of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, until recently called the Northwest Frontier Province. These people have a vision, are well trained and their recruitment process is tried and tested.

In urban centers, the Taliban recruit from two fronts, Islamic madrassas and low-income neighborhoods. They have a network of sympathizers who run radical Islamic schools, providing free education to the very poor. Typically, older Taliban fighters or recruiters spend an evening at one of these schools, glorifying the front lines, showing students videos of their heroics, and talking to them about paradise and the afterlife.The students they address have already been primed by years of brainwashing; they have no access to entertainment, sports, books or even their family. The madrassa is the only home they know, they are often beaten by their teachers, told to study the Koran for hours at a stretch in Arabic, a language alien to them. They are frustrated and suddenly, they are provided with an opportunity to give their life up in the name of Islam and earn glory.

They are promised lakes of milk and honey and virgins in the afterlife. The young boys I speak with say to me: Why would I want to live in this world — where they rely on charity, dry pieces of bread and water, where they are subjected to harsh treatment, when they can be free and be the envy of their colleagues in the afterlife. They are only too eager to sign on the dotted line and join the ranks of the Taliban.

In the past few years, the Taliban have relied on other radical organizations, like Jaish-e Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, to recruit young men from low-income neighborhoods in smaller urban centers.

These organizations have had a presence there for years; first they recruited young men to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviets, then in Kashmir against the Indian Army. The Taliban have just re-activated these lucrative networks.

Smaller urban centers tend to have high levels of unemployment and the youth have fewer outlets to expend their energy. These radical organizations lure in young men from mosques after Friday sermons, from college campuses and through local neighborhood recruiters.

The young men who show slight interest are invited to selected safe houses where trained recruiters begin brainwashing them. A young man I met in Karachi described the process to me, telling me that in the end he could not carry out the attacks, but that almost everyone he knew from his group was now working for the Taliban and their affiliates.

Once inside the safe house, the young men are provided literature, so-called proof, about the atrocities supposedly being committed by the government of Pakistan at the behest of the United States.

Then, lengthy discussions ensue about their future. Will they ever have jobs, will they be able to provide for their families in this corrupt environment? Would they not want to be part of a process that changes the country and brings accountability? They are promised money, their families are promised compensation and the radical organizations then begin the next phase — training.

A number of young men who had gone through this ideological brainwashing period told me that training to be a bomber was their best option to get out of poverty. They said that they believe in the cause, because these people understood their needs, and provided them with opportunities, while the rest of society shunned them. Weeks of brainwashing also convinced them that they are fighting an evil and are working toward creating a just ideal Islamic society.

There is very little deterrent to suicide bombings, especially in a Third World country like Pakistan. Fighting the Taliban and the various radical organizations on the front lines is like adding a Band-Aid to a cut, it may stop the bleeding but unless you clean it with antiseptic, the germs stay and multiply.

The Pakistani government and its allies must overhaul their policies in Pakistan. They must tackle the madrassa system of education head on and they must look to provide alternate avenues and employment for the youth.

Thousands of civilians have lost their lives to terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, and thousands more will — because, unlike the Pakistani government, which has no coherent policy to deal with the radicals, the Taliban have one to deal with Pakistan and its citizens.

Source: CNN.com

As Sharmeen truly points out, its a lot of socio-economic variables as play. Raw power cannot succeed at rooting out terrorism and this has been proved by the experience of US and allied forces not being able to root out Taliban from Afghanistan. In fact leveraging religious fanaticism, Taliban is gaining grounds elsewhere in various forms and formats. Be it in developing nations like India through organizations like LeT (or by any other name) or in nations like Yemen where religious belief as well as internal instability fuel its growth.

So while our security forces battle it out with terrorists, government and other development agencies need to figure out more inclusive growth policies. The sooner the better.



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Afghanistan: Trained forces far, financial independence farther

Afghanistan: Eye-on-War

While the world leaders opened a major international conference on Afghanistan’s future in London on Thursday, President Hamid Karzai admitted that it could take anything between 5 to 10 years for Afghan forces to take over from the American-led coalition fighting the Taliban. He further clarified that it may take even longer to end his nation’s dependence on financial aid to sustain its military.

Leaders from around 70 nations including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Canadian Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are attending the one day conference. Mr. Brown announced that the transfer of responsibilities from coalition forces to the Afghan forces would start this year.

This is a decisive time for the international cooperation that is helping the Afghan people secure and govern their own country,” Mr. Brown said. “This conference marks the beginning of the transition process,” he said, referring to the handover to Afghan authorities of responsibility for security.

The coalition forces are targeting to weaken Taliban by dividing their forces using a central fund of about USD500 million being projected as a “pay-for-peace” plan. The proposal is targeted to bring the Taliban fighters to civilian fold.

Ban Ki-moon has named Staffan de Mistura, a veteran Swedish diplomat, as the new top U.N. official in Afghanistan. De Mistura, has been a former U.N. representative in Iraq. He will start his stint on March 1 this year.

As the coalition nations plan the next steps the plan to attract the Taliban cadres may seem to be bit tough given the fact that the U.S. military intelligence believes that the Taliban now has shadow governments in 33 of 34 provinces. Taliban sources meanwhile responded in a strong tone to the conference, calling for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.

It is a matter of great sorrow that the invaders led by U.S.A. are bent on sticking to the military approach of the issue,” the statement said.

We want to say clearly, if the invaders want to save themselves from further financial and life losses, they should not deceive their people by illusory plans and strategies, nor they should waste time on them, or make our people face further sufferings and problems. They should accept the solution put forward by the Islamic Emirate, which is the full withdrawal of the invading forces from our country.

A second major gathering of the leaders is expected to take place in Kabul, in a few months from now.

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US and UK announce extra troop deployment in Afghanistan

NATO Soldier

It’s here and it’s real. The US President Barack Obama has finally let the cat out of his bag. He has announced the much awaited decision on troop numbers on Sunday night, a White House spokesman said. Though the formal plan in terms of troop numbers and other logistics will be announced on Tuesday, the current announcement confirms the earlier resolve by the US President, to “finish the job” in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press quoting White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reported, that Mr. Obama held an unannounced meeting on Sunday night with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Senior military officials have been informed about the decision and now the British, French and Russian leaders are being briefed about the plan.

Following his discussion with the Secretary of State, Obama briefed senior staff including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James Jones. He later held a videophone conference with the head of the US operation in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan.

Talibani Militants

The US announcement comes close to the announcement of the British stand by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, where he committed to send 500 special force members to Afghanistan. Mr. Brown for the first time also revealed the role of special troops in Afghanistan. He said the British people had a right to know that the highly trained Special Forces are playing their full role not only in force protection but also combating the Taliban militants directly along with the regular forces.

US has around 70,000 troops in Afghanistan and may add around 30,000 more troops based on Gen McChrystal’s request who has asked for around 40,000 additional troops.


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Afghanistan: U.S. seeks additional 10,000 troops from allies


'Let come what may' : Obama will send 34,000 troops

US Forces in Afghanistan

The United States of America is trying to persuade its NATO partners to commit 10,000 additional troops for Afghanistan as part of President Obama’s strategy for the region. President Obama previously indicated a quick close to the Afghanistan war. A formal strategy on Afghanistan is expected to emerge by next week. Sources also reported possible addition U.S. troop deployment to the tune of 35,000 in 2010. U.S. has currently about 71,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan.

While U.S. is trying to get allies commitment on 10,000 troops reports suggest that the allies are willing to provide fewer than half that number. NATO allies are not ready to commit more resources due to the growing unpopularity of the Afghanistan war in their nations as well as concerns around charges of corruption on President Karzai’s government.

U.S administration is hoping to get NATO allies to commit forces to supplement the planned 40,000 troop deployment target. This would help reduce the criticism that the Obama administration is facing on troop deployment as well as ease the pressure on already stretched military forces.

Among NATO allies, Britain is already facing internal criticism and seems reluctant to add forces. The British government is facing a opinion poll that suggests that 70% people favor early withdrawal as the nation has already lost 97 soldiers in Afghanistan this year.

Germany and France are also shying away from any further commitments to the war. The support for war is now so low in the two European nations that they can reportedly, barely maintain current troop levels. Among other prominent partners, the Netherlands and Canada have already begun chalking out exit plans.

The only nations who seem committed to add forces are Poland, Italy and Georgia. Georgia is a NATO entry aspirant and is planning to add one company of troops in 2010. While the talks are on some military analysts seem skeptical about the idea of supplementing U.S. forces with small contingents from other nations. They suggest that this sort of an arrangement with mixed forces may not yield the results that a single force may be able to achieve. They believe that the forces of other nations are not as well matched as their U.S. counterparts in skills and ammunitions.

While the allies deliberate, U.S. will unveil its Afghanistan strategy on Tuesday. NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels on the next Thursday and Friday to discuss Afghanistan though troop commitments are not likely to be discussed in detail before the upcoming so-called Force-generation Conference on Dec. 7, in Brussels.

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Transparency International releases Corruption Perceptions Index 2009


Corruption Perceptions Index-2009

Transparency International (TI), a Berlin based organization, which is a civil society organization and claims to be leading the fight against corruption, has released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for the year 2009.

Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.

The organization releases this list every year which ranks nations on an index which is created as a function of various parameters to scale the level of corruption in a country. It measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 180 nations and territories around the world. As TI defines it: The CPI is a “survey of surveys“, based on 13 different expert and business surveys. Each nation undergoes a different number of surveys to get a final score. The scores are on a scale of 0-10 where 0 is perceived very corrupt and 10 as very clean. The score is based on perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts.

This year, Somalia (1.1) tops the list of most corrupt nations with Afghanistan (1.3) being a close second. Iraq is at 5th spot with a score of 1.5.

As TI’s Head, Huguette Labelle put it, the 2009 corruption list is “of great concern,” since most of the nations have a score of under 5. Out of 180 nations featuring in the survey only 48 have a score of above 5. Most of the nations that ranked high on corruption include some of the most poor and war torn nations.

The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions,” said TI’s head Huguette Labelle.

Afghanistan slid from a score of 1.5 in 2008 to 1.3 this year, which is bound to fuel the attack on President Hamid Karzai whose election and re-election was clouded with allegation of rampant fraud. Earlier on this Monday the Afghan government announced steps that included forming a major crime unit to tackle corruption. This moved has been seen as a move designed to assuage Western concerns about Karzai.

Among the group of 7 most rich nations Italy’s ranking took a beating with it sliding to 63rd position from last year’s 55th spot. Some of the nations which made marked improvement are Liberia (97th from 138 last year) and Gambia (106th from earlier 158th). The United States of America while improving its score from 7.3 to 7.5, slid one spot on the rank to 19th. China has a stable score of 3.6 but slid seven places on the ranks to 79th. Brazil (3.7) shared the 75th spot with Columbia, Peru and Surinam while another BRIC nation, Russia (2.2) was ranked very low at 146th. India (3.4) ranked at a joint 84th spot with four other nations including Thailand.

The top-5 nations on the list are: New Zealand (9.4), Denmark (9.3), Singapore (9.2), Sweden (9.2) and Switzerland (9.0). Canada (8.7)is ranked at a joint 8th with Australia and Iceland.

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Suicide Attack in Peshawar: At least 10 killed and 25 injured


As allied forces claim to continue crushing Talibani resistance in Afghanistan, Pakistan continues to be rocked by continued wave of violence. In the latest incident, a suicide car bomber blew himself up at a police check post on Peshawar’s outskirts on Saturday killing 10 people, including women and children, and injuring over 25 others.


A suicide bomber exploded his car when police tried to search his car at a checkpoint at a big crossing at the outskirts of Peshawar,” (Peshawar district administration chief Sahibzada) Anis said.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlc1uelBJAU]The bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle, packed with about 50 kg of explosives, when policemen asked him to stop for the search at Pishtakhara Chowk, the main entry point to Peshawar from the troubled North Western Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region.

The blast was so powerful that it blew up a number of other vehicles lined up at the check post. A large number of people were present in a nearby bus stand and commercial area when the blast occurred at about 4.15 pm. local time.

Pakistan has been torn by spate of such attacks including the one on Friday that targeted the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) headquarters in Peshawar and a police station in Bannu, killing 20 people and injuring 85 others.


NWFP Senior Minister Bashir Bilour ruled out the possibility of holding talks with the militants.

Some political parties say we should hold talks (with the militants). Who should we talk with? Should we talk to those who are killing our children and spreading destruction?” he told reporters after visiting the injured in a hospital.

We will not talk to any terrorists… With the cooperation of political forces and the people, we will stand united and we will be successful,” he said.

Asked who was behind the wave of attacks, Bilour said: “Only terrorists are responsible. No Americans, British, Europeans or Indians have died in the attacks, only Muslims, small children and our sisters and brothers have died. They (the attackers) are not Muslims or Pathans or humans, they are barbarians“.

Bilour described the attacks in the NWFP as a “reaction” to the military operations against Taliban in tribal areas.”We will fight them to the end even if we lose our lives,” he said.


Meanwhile Taliban has warned that they will increase the spate of attacks in the coming days and dared the government to stop them.

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Afghanistan: Allies recover cache of bomb making materials

After the recent spate of attacks on the ally forces led by U.S in Afghanistan primarily using homemade bombs that used substances like fertilizers, the NATO forces have started a new hunt for such materials.

In a pair of raids on Sunday, Afghan police and American soldiers discovered a half-million pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that is used in the overwhelming majority of homemade bombs here. Some 2,000 bomb-making devices like timers and triggers were also found, and 15 Afghans were detained.

With a typical homemade bomb weighing no more than 60 pounds, the seizure of that much fertilizer — more than 10 tractor-trailer loads — removed potentially thousands of bombs from the streets and trails of southern Afghanistan, officials said.

You can turn a bag of ammonium nitrate into a bomb in a matter hours,” said Col. Mark Lee, who heads NATO’s effort to stop the bombmakers in southern Afghanistan. “This is a great first step.”

NATO Forces

NATO Soldier

The operation is being run in the city of Kandahar which has witnessed much bloodshed in the recent past. Use of ammonium nitrate is illegal in Afghanistan; though the farmers are allowed to use other types, like urea-based fertilizer, for agricultural purposes. Most of the ammonium nitrate fertilizer in Afghanistan is believed to be imported from Pakistan.

The Oklahoma bombings in 1995 had used 600-pounds of ammonium nitrate mixed with other fuels resulting in death of 168 people. The cuurent raids are aimed to take away the substance from talibani insurgents.

The use of homemade bombs, the leading killer of American and NATO soldiers, has been skyrocketing. Last year, 4,100 bombs either exploded or were discovered beforehand in Afghanistan. So far this year, 6,500 bombs have either been found or have gone off, military officials in Kabul said.

While the forces are still removing the seized substances, reports indicated that so far they had filled ten 40-foot long shipping containers with the stuff.

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