Tag Archives: Al-Qaida

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.



Filed under Development, World

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.


Filed under World

Security concerns force 600 UN workers out of Afghanistan


United Nations

After the recent spate of attacks and heightened security concerns the UN announced its decision to temporarily relocate 600 members of its international foreign staff based in Afghanistan. The international body also said that the personnel would return to work once the security of the areas accommodating the staff is beefed up.

The body also said that the humanitarian work like aid distribution would not have a setback in light of the UN decision as it is handled by the local staff members. In the recent attack on Bekhtar guesthouse in the Shar-i-Naw district last Wednesday, which was deadliest attack on UN since fall of Taliban regime in 2001, five UN workers and three Afghans were killed.

In a Kabul news conference on Thursday, Kai Eide, the head of the UN’s Afghan mission, said some of the staff – mostly “non-frontline” personnel – would be moved within the country, others outside.

We are not talking about pulling out and we are not talking about evacuation,” the Norwegian diplomat said.

The temporary relocation of staff was likely to take three to four weeks, the UN said.

The UN had also halted a long-term development work this Monday, citing security concerns, in north-western Pakistan bordering Afghanistan which is viewed as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.

Among the 5600-strong workforce in Afghanistan 1300 are international workers and are located in different Afghan cities.

Mr Eide told the BBC later: “It’s quite clear that the security situation for our staff has become much more complex over the last year.

But he said the Taliban would not succeed in driving the UN out of Afghanistan, in the same way it was forced from Iraq six years ago after a suicide truck bombing on a UN compound killed a top envoy and more than 20 others.

We will certainly continue our work, but we are taking the measures in order to do so and we are enhancing our security,” said Mr Eide.

Hamid Karzai

Pres. Hamid Karzai

The security scenario has taken a severe beating recently despite the presence of more than 100,000 Nato-led troops, including about 68,000 Americans. While the US President Barack Obama is currently deliberating a request from the US commander in Afghanistan for another 40,000 troops the recent spate of attacks and UN “temporary” retreat makes the issue more complex.

Amidst calls for radical changes in the functioning of Afghan government and wiping out corruption the international community keeps a close watch on the newly re-constituted Afghan government under President Karzai.

I do believe it’s understood that serious reforms are needed, and I believe that reforms will come as a new government is formed,”

Mr. Eide said.“It’s up to the president to compose his government. We have seen new competent ministers coming in, and it has had an impact,” he continued. “What we have said to President Karzai is, ‘You have some competent people, and you need more of them.

Source: nytimes.com

The UN had last month fired its No. 2 official in Afghanistan, Peter W. Galbraith, an U.S. diplomat, after he wrote a scathing letter which accused Mr. Eide of concealing election fraud that benefited President Karzai. UN General Secretary Ban ki-Moon had pulled out Mr. Galbraith while reaffirming his belief in him.

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Filed under World