Civilian Casualties, Warlords, Professors and Tricky Dissimulating Jews

August 31, 2007.

“Dear RAWA: Yes, we HAVE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME - and do not need Human Rights Watch to tell us - that terrible criminals are in the puppet Karzai regime. You at RAWA have, for years, been saying this! You have published accurate detailed evidence.

I find it very revealing that only when mainstream organizations “report” - like Human Rights Watch which is completely funded by the capitalist financial speculator, George Soros - does the world begin to notice, no? When RAWA spoke about the criminals in government or when Marc Herold reported on civilian casualties, very few mainstream persons listened.

In fact, Human Rights Watch launched into unsupported, personalized criticisms of my research and for now close to four years ignored the war criminals in the Karzai regime.”

Context to the above passage: In his letter to RAWA, a (Swiss?) associate professor of economics and women’s studies at the University of New Hampshire, Marc Herold, extols himself in the third person while excoriating Human Rights Watch (funded by Jew-capitalists, don’t you know? Yawn, yawn, yawn!). Anyways, you may find the Human Rights Watch report on the aforementioned criminals here. The Human Rights Watch Afghanistan page is also very useful.

Pic: Professor Herold.

Despite Herold’s lament about “mainstream persons” ignoring him, numerous sources such as Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, New York Times, Le Monde, International Herald Tribune, Toronto Globe and Mail and others cited his work on civilian casualties. An early criticism came from Joshua Muravchik at The Weekly Standard (naturally) who couldn’t find Herold’s sources (whoops) on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Herold took the criticism in stride and not-so-subtly accused Muravchik of Jewish trickery for signing his emails “Josh Muravchik” in stead of “Joshua Muravchik,” thereby cloaking his (Jewish) identity.

Pic: Джошуа “Josh” Муравчик, dissimulator who hides his ethnicity by only allowing very small pictures of himself on the internet.

Further criticism was leveled against Herold’s methodology by Jeffrey Isaac of Indiana University, who I’m sure hides his Jew-nicity by signing his emails “Jeff” instead of “Jeffrey” (that works, right?). Isaac, who can be seen playing his jazz sax at the Tutto Bene wine cafe in Bloomington every Thursday night, says that:

[Herold’s] paper seems deeply flawed. It is characterized by biases and unwarranted inferences that should cause any reader to be skeptical about its arguments. It employs a questionable methodology. And it draws conclusions that far exceed what might reasonably be concluded from its ‘comprehensive accounting’ even if one assumes – against the evidence – that this accounting is accurate.

Pic: Jeff Isaac, who was separated at birth from Dustin Hoffman.

Isaac goes on:

Yet [Herold’s] methodology suffers from two serious weaknesses. The first is that he employs the principle of maximum credulity in evaluating his sources. As he puts it: “I have eschewed making judgments about the relative reliability of one nation’s news agencies and reporters versus another’s.” He assumes that if an editor of any newspaper or outlet considered an account to be accurate, then it is accurate.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that Herold’s wretchedly flawed “research” does a disservice to all those who want to reduce civilian casualties. By exaggerating and lying, Herold creates doubts about legitimate work done by Human Rights Watch, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and others. When mainstream news organizations quote people like Herold, who have been thoroughly debunked, they create doubt among the reading public about civilian casualties that are truly occurring. The media saw Herold’s numbers, multiple times larger than others, and took the bait.

Pic: Watch out Marc! I think the woman on your right might be a dissimulating Jew.

Civilian casualties must be reduced to zero (inshallah). But having someone like Professor Herold being treated by the media as both an expert on Afghanistan and an expert on civilian casualties of war will do nothing but create doubt among the public in those countries whose troops are in Afghanistan. It is these people who are in a position to pressure their governments into taking the needed steps towards reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan. So quit lying to them. That goes for governments, journalists, and Marc Herold.

[Note: I’m keeping Marc Herold on my list of experts at The Afghanistan Analyst and adding his sorta-blog to my blogroll. I link to jihadis, so why not Herold?]

Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: Mongol Style

August 29, 2007.

In 1221, the people of Herat and Balkh rebelled against their new Mongol rulers. In the process the Mongol governor was killed. The Mongol response to the 1221 uprisings was to massacre the entire populations of both cities.

Thomas J. Barfield, an anthropologist and a legitimate expert on Afghanistan (as opposed to those illegitimate ones), briefly discussed historical rebellions in Afghanistan in an article titled “Problems in establishing legitimacy in Afghanistan” (Iranian Studies, Volume 37, Number 2, June 2004). Barfield notes that:

“While conquered cities often rebelled after a conquest, this was less a challenge to the legitimacy of its government than a test of its staying power. Populations were rarely punished for such acts beyond the execution of the ringleaders and confiscation of property.”

Barfield goes on to say that the Mongols clearly did not understand the “ritual nature of such challenges.” Yes, clearly not.

Shortest. Entry. Ever. Thanks to the Mongols for that.

PS: I do not endorse this model of counterinsurgency in any way, shape or form. That’s clear, right?

Totally out of context quote #15

August 28, 2007.

“Recent memoirs written by women from Afghanistan have also been critiqued for succumbing to the “neo-orientalist” paradigm of presenting yet another example of suffering, eastern women beaten down by their barbaric men and suffering at the hands of a medieval culture. To these critics, Hosseini’s heroines, Mariam and Laila, are not women emerging from a chasm of hopelessness but rather an indictment of a whole society that will be discarded and denigrated by the Western reader as inherently misogynistic.

In Gayatri Spivak’s now oft-quoted words, Hosseini’s tale (especially in light of the Allied invasion of Afghanistan) can quite literally be construed as yet another instance of “white men saving brown women from brown men.”

Yet allowing for such critiques leads us to an even more untenable thesis. Should the grim reality of abuse be abridged and disguised simply because it promotes negative stereotypes? Is the suffering of Afghan women not worthy of representation in literature because it can be appropriated for political agendas?”

Context: Indiana University’s Rafia Zakaria, in her review of Khalid Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, has some choice words for both those who cry “neo-orientalism, neo-colonialism!” and for those who see the suffering of Afghan women as fitting into their conservative internationalist agenda. I will not discuss this issue at the present time even though gender issues and women’s studies are my forté (sarcasm alert).

Whoops! They Caught A Chechen.

August 27, 2007.

Aaaargh! I spent so much time trying to debunk the idea about Chechens being in Afghanistan and one is caught in Paktia. How would I know that they would catch a Chechen literally one day after I wrote about the “Chechen Myth?” According to the blog writings of “John,” an officer at FOB Gardez in Paktia, this happened:

“On a completely different topic, Afghan police at a checkpoint near here captured a Chechen fighter fleeing from an operation in the K-G pass — dressed as a woman. We were at the governor’s compound yesterday when the police rolled in with him, still wearing a burqa, and proceeded to interrogate him in front of a tribal shura the governor had been mediating. Fun times for everyone. Except the Chechen. I’m currently trying to get authorization to release the photo I took of him publicly — hopefully should get it by this evening.”

Painting by Keith Rocco: Something heroic happening in Paktia, not involving Chechens.

This is all so sad. I attempted to find out about this incident and fought some interesting facts about this Chechen:

A Russian man, disguised as a woman, was arrested during a search in the restive southeastern province of Paktia Saturday afternoon. Governor Rehmatullah Rehmat produced the detainee - named Andrei - before tribal elders at the governor’s house here.

Hmmm. “Andrei” doesn’t seem like a proper name for a Chechen. What else did Pajhwok news say?:

The suspect insisted he had arrived in Afghanistan to return to his country, and that he did not want to support militants or perpetrate violence against anyone. However, he would not say what prompted him to put on women’s clothes.

I won’t judge this man based on how he dresses. But I’m still curious (added by editor: not a freudian slip. I swear). Why was he in the area?:

Initially, he went to Egypt for receiving religious education. Later on, the young man moved to Iran for higher Islamic studies. Prior to his entry into Afghanistan, he was studying in a Pakistani seminary. Andrei continued he spent some time in the southern port city of Karachi before shifting to Mir Ali town of Waziristan, lying close to the Pak-Afghan border. He lived in Pakistan’s troubled northwestern tribal region for six months. From Mir Ali, he managed to enter Khost in an effort to reach Kabul. The detainee planned to go from the Afghan capital to Tajikistan and then to Russia.

Aaaaw! He wants to go home. He hates Pakistan. It’s so sad. (But what’s the deal with hanging out in Iran? They’re like, so munafiqeen and stuff). Anyways, this is the gist of it:

The lanky man, in an exclusive chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, said he was a resident of Siberia. Sporting a long beard, the 28-year-old added he had embraced Islam.

Pffft! He’s not even a Chechen. He’s likely an ethnic Russian or the member of some ethnic minority in Siberia who thinks that naming your kid “Andrei” is cool (and who can grow a beard).

Even The Frontier Post of Pakistan, who identified the man as a Russian, got into the action:

The suspect insisted he had arrived in Afghanistan to return to his country, and that he did not want to support militants or perpetrate violence against anyone. However, he would not say what prompted him to put on women’s clothes.

They’re really comfortable? They’re like wearing a mu-mu?

OK. I guess I’m beating this subject to death. My point is, other than that US troops and Afghan security officers are mistakenly using “Chechen” in the place of “Russian” and “not Chechen at all,” is that I’m right. Oh, and there are no Chechens in Afghanistan or nearby. Sorry, for being so unbearable about the whole thing. But this is only the second time that I’ve actually been right about anything. Celebrate when you can I guess.

[added: I’m not picking on “John” or even on the locals in Paktia. They are just going on what I talked about in the post about imaginary Chechens.]

Imaginary Chechens Attack!

August 24, 2007.

Way back in the day (2001-2o02), I saw several reports in the media about the hoards of Chechens that were battling US-NATO and their local allies in Afghanistan. I thought “WTF? Why have they left a perfectly good fight on home soil back in Chechnya?” Of course it turned out to be totally false, yet this myth persists to this day.

Pic: “We ain’t in Afghanistan. We in Moscow”

Who was saying this about the Chechens? Usually it was journalists, American officers or other US government spokespersons. It usually went something like this: “Yeah, we’re fighting the hardcore al Qaeda troops right now. You know, Arabs, Uzbeks, Malaysians, um….Uyghurs……and…uh …..the reanimated zombie corpses of Confederate soldiers and Chechens.” OK, maybe they did not actually say Malaysians but you get the point.

Who gave these people the idea that there were Chechens to be fought in Afghanistan? Well, to start with, Jane’s said so in 2001:

Chechen units and the forces of the IMU constitute the other two main foreign contingents. While organisationally separate with distinct leaderships, links between Islamist militants from the two ex-Soviet territories are longstanding and it seems likely that Chechens are today attached to IMU combat units. […]

Jane’s went on:

To the fury of Moscow, a Chechen embassy was first established in Kabul in January 2000 and Chechen consulates were later set up in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. As with the Arabs, there has grown up a civilian Chechen community in cities such as Kandahar and Mazar. Military bases have been identified at Kod-e-Barq outside Mazar; and at a facility just south of the highway between Tashkurgan and Mazar. At least one all-Chechen unit - a platoon of some 30 fighters - has been identified operating on the front line near Bagram airbase, north of Kabul.

Wow. If you say something with this much detail, it must be true. Actually, the only thing here that is definitely true is the part about the embassy, which was very small and had the worst embassy parties ever.

And who else? Ahmed Rashid said this in September of 2000:

….the Taliban have some 6,000-7,000 troops that include Afghans, Pakistanis, Arabs from the forces of Osama Bin Laden, and the multi-ethnic forces of the IMU and its leader Juma Namangani. The IMU has a wide recruiting base of Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Chechens and even some Uyghurs from China’s Xinjiang province.

Strike out the part about Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Chechens and the above statement is accurate.

The world’s worst CIA officer, Gary Schroen (retired, thank God), relates a tale of some “Chechens” in his book which I ridiculed a while ago. It was one of many anecdotes and assertions in his book which were hilariously wrong.

The State Department said this in early 2003:

Al-Qa’ida’s select “055 Brigade,” which fought against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, included a number of Chechens, many of whom were likely followers of Basayev, Barayev and Khattab. Then SPIR commander Arbi Barayev sent at least one group of his fighters to train in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan in the spring of 2001. In October 2001, al-Khattab sent additional fighters to Afghanistan...

Until this point in the statement of case, the State Department author had been painting a picture support going from Afghanistan to Chechnya and of small scale visits by Chechens to Afghanistan for training.

And in 2005 STRATFOR wrote this:

In addition to the madrassa students and local fighters, there is a significant foreign element in the insurgency. The U.S. military has confirmed kills of Uzbeks, Urdu-speaking fighters and fighters from Central Asia. In addition, there have also been confirmed kills of Chechens.

The Chechens in Afghanistan are the insurgency’s elite fighters. They are deployed as personal security details for important insurgent commanders and as trainers for new recruits. Chechen fighters often go into combat with local Afghan insurgents and fighters recruited from the madrassas to act as advisors and give the younger fighters confidence. It is quite possible that the Chechen fighters rotate through Afghanistan in an effort to enhance their influence in the worldwide jihadist movement, by lending their skills to the fight in Afghanistan. The Chechens’ involvement could also be meant to repay al Qaeda and the Taliban for helping them in their fight in Russia.

What’s sad is that somebody was paid quite well to write this analysis. The above passage is 100% wrong.

Pic: “Boo! I’m a Chechen! And I have to get this tablecloth back to my mom’s place by 6 o’clock.”

Eyes of fire – a Chechen rebel fighter. Occupation stokes resistance and fuels terror. Photo: Heidi Bradner/Panos Pictures

And in July American PSYOPS (I think) tried to undercut the Quetta Shura’s reputation by suggesting in some fake pamphlets that Mullah Omar gave Chechens and Uzbeks the commander roles in Afghanistan. Ahmed Rashid has now come around and disagreed with the assertion about the Uzbeks and Chechens.

Were there any skeptics? Of course there were. And of course they were the experts. And of course they were ignored. Fred Weir wrote a fair and nuanced article in the Christian Science Monitor back in 2002 about Chechens in Afghanistan. Unfortunately the headline writer butchered the title and wrote: “Chechnya’s Warrior Tradition: Guerillas from Russia’s longtime nemesis take their fighting skills to Afghanistan.” Oh, well. If you actually read beyond the headline you will find both sides of the story. The US military side says this:

“There are a lot of them, and they sure know how to fight,” an un-named US officer told Agence France-Presse after US troops clashed with Chechen guerrillas in this month’s “Operation Anaconda,” aimed at corralling diehard Al Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan’s eastern mountains. General Tommy Franks, commander of US forces, was more circumspect at a Moscow press conference last week. “The number of nationalities represented in the detainees we have is about 35 and, to be sure, the Chechen nationality is represented among those nations,” he said.

Good job General Franks. If you actually checked you would have found no Chechens “among those nations.”

But the Christian Science Monitor found some skeptics:

But most experts who study the tiny, traditionally Muslim republic of Chechnya say they doubt its legendary warriors have joined Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network in large enough numbers to become its “biggest single component,” as some reports have claimed. For one thing, they say, most Chechens are not religious. “Islam did not strike deep roots among the Chechens, and has played only a slight role in their rebellions against Russian rule in the past,” says Alexander Iskanderyan, head of the independent Center for Caucasus Studies in Moscow. “Religion is not the key to understanding Chechens; their painful past is.”

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military expert had this to say in the CSM article:

“Of course, there are some; there have always been some Chechen volunteers and mercenaries fighting in wars around the Near East and Central Asia. But as far as anyone can estimate, the majority of Chechen men are still in Chechnya or the immediate region, and they are continuing to fight the only enemy that has ever mattered to them, which is Russia.”

Pic: “The thought of fighting in Afghanistan makes us depressed.”

Chechen rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov.

Ask the Chechen fighters about the idea of them being in Afghanistan and they get a bit annoyed and then they get even more annoyed.

I’ll now move fully over to the skeptics side and introduce you to Nabi Abdullaev of The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Writing in The Moscow Times in December 2001 Abdullaev started with the headline “Are Chechens in Afghanistan?” and started to dig. He found that “most, but not all” regional experts doubt that there are large numbers of Chechens in Afghanistan. Abdullaev quoted Timur Muzayev of Panorama:

“There is no reason for Chechens to go to fight in Afghanistan because the ideological basis for resistance for the majority of the rebels is defending their own land. And those Chechens who view themselves as religious warriors against the infidels can also nicely defend their faith in Chechnya, without going anywhere else.”

Abdullaev even looked to Chechen mafia/government advisor/terrorist/assassin Khozh-Ahmed Noukhaev for his point of view:

Another Chechen insider, Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, who was widely believed to be a confidant and private banker of first Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev, also said it was absurd for Chechens to be fighting in Afghanistan — because the Taliban does not need them. There is no shortage of fighters in Afghanistan, which essentially already has been at war for 23 years, and a few dozen Chechens could provide little help to the Taliban, he wrote…

Just a note: be careful when writing about Nukhayev. He may still be alive (but probably not) and he may have killed the journalist Paul Klebnikov over an unflattering portrayal. Maybe. It was in Russia so who knows.

In the CSM article, Alexander Pikayev at the Carnegie Center estimated that there were a few dozen Chechens in Afghanistan while Viktor Korgun at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow said that maybe there were 1,000 Chechens in Afghanistan at the beginning of operations. However, Nabi Abdullaev, this time writing for the Jamestown Foundation in 2002, noted that according to independent analysts the active Chechen resistance at home numbers about 300 fighters.

Presuming there was the motivation, where’s the spare capacity with this few fighters to send fighters to Afghanistan? In another Jamestown article in early 2002 Radio Liberty journalist Andrei Babitsky said that while he was in Afghanistan he could not find:

“…a single Chechen fighter, dead or alive.” “All the Russian journalists in Afghanistan received instructions to find Chechens, but we inspected all of the jails, asked all of the [Afghan] field commanders–in vain….”

The myth about the Chechen really should have fallen apart when the US government revealed the identities of the captives at Guantanamo Bay. Of the eight captives from the Russian Federation, none were Chechens. Yuri Kovalenko asked the obvious question:

“How has it happened that among the several thousand foreign fighters taken into prison in Afghanistan, not a single Chechen has been discovered? There are likewise none among the 500 prisoners in the hands of the Americans, including those interned at the Cuban base at Guantanamo…Not one Chechen has been found among the 3,000 fighters imprisoned in the dungeon of Shibirgan...

Of the eight men from Russia three were from Tatarstan, two were from Khabardino-Balkaria, one from Bashkortostan, one from Chelyabinsk and one from Tyumen.

Pic: Image Google “Tyumen” and this is image #6.

And it is even possible that one of these men was actually rescued from the Taliban. He claims that upon crossing the Amu Darya the Taliban captured he and his friend and accused them of being Russian spies. His friend had his throat slit and he was tortured in Kandahar for his troubles. Anyways, they all have interesting stories.

Jamestown kept pushing the issue in September in their Chechnya Weekly article titled “No Evidence of Chechens in Afghanistan.” But Chechnya Weekly was having problems getting answers for US government sources:

Have Chechen separatist guerrillas been fighting against the United States and its allies in places such as Iraq or Afghanistan–and if so, how many have been captured or killed? The U.S. government has been strikingly passive in seeking to learn (or, at least, in publicly disclosing) the answer to that question. Chechnya Weekly began pressing for a precise, concrete answer months ago, but we have yet to get one from the White House, Pentagon, or State Department.

My favorite part of Williams’ article is Williams’ own favorite media account:

The U.S. Customs Service issued a bulletin late last week urging law enforcement to be on the lookout for two possible Chechen terrorists who may try to enter the United States through Mexico, then travel to Montana. (”Are Chechen terrorists headed for Montana?” Chris Vlasto, ABC News.)

Montana? They must be after our strategic reserves of sheep and ‘58 Dodge pick-up trucks.

Williams even quotes both Robert Young Pelton and Carlotta Gall as having deduced that there are no Chechens in Afghanistan.

Pic: If Roger Young Pelton had found any Chechens in Afghanistan he would have killed them with his mustache and his hyperbole.

So who is telling these “misrepresentations of reality?” The originators would be the Russian FSB and the Kremlin, trying to tie in the fight against the Chechens into the American war on terror and legitimizing their operations in Chechnya. Many in the Russian media picked this up and ran with it. They were very soon joined by American journalists who were repeating the Russian journalists, and most importantly, the US Department of Defense. The DoD likely did so out of sheer ignorance (an ignorance shared by many stateside). However, it is possible that the desire to show Russia the need for an American base in Central Asia to support the war in Afghanistan was a motivating factor. Also, the US would like to portray the resistance to them in Afghanistan as coming from crazed Jihadis from far off lands when really it’s coming from locals and Pakistanis. This joined the Americans and the Russians in some mutually beneficial storytelling.

And they have now been joined by Pakistan, who is trying to convince the world that all problems back home are the result of foreigners, hence the stream of reports about the masses of Uzbeks and Chechens in the tribal areas. And when Afghan and Pakistani locals talk about Chechens they are doing so because they both know what the interviewer wants to hear, they are repeating what local leaders say, and they are trying to deflect attention away from the ethnic Pashtuns (usually locals) who are being identified as “Chechens.”

When I hear some US officer reciting the list of assorted foreign bad guys they are fighting, I know he just parroting some old stale info that was never true in the first place. I doubt people like these have agendas. They have just been done a disservice by the media, various governments and some analysts. The news still circulates and you will find accounts like this via The Fourth Rail or article in today’s Telegraph or account by a Pakistani security official a couple of weeks ago.

Oh well. The good news come in small bits and pieces. I read or watched an interview (that I can’t find) with an American Officer on the Eastern border and noted his reaction to a question about Chechens and other foreigners that he was expected to fight. He very politely said that he was not expecting to fight any of those ethnicities. Just Afghans and Pakistanis. So perhaps the soldiers who are in the fight are actually doing some of their own analysis based on the reality that they see.

I will add a small caveat. Perhaps there are a small handful of Chechens in the tribal areas of Pakistan. But their numbers would likely be very small (i.e., counted on one or two hands). Stranger things have happened. But that being said, when you hear about Americans or Pakistanis engaging Chechens, be sure that they engaged regular old Afghan Pashtuns or Pakistani locals.

So why does this all annoy me? Because:

A. Some analysts are being paid to peddle false information.

B. Believing this plays into the hands of the Russian and Pakistani governments.

C. It’s a constant reminder of how bad some journalists are.

D. It allows the US and Afghan government to blame some of the conflict on “meddling outsiders.” They should look to Afghan locals and to Paksitani “visitors” to blame for this (in addition to looking in the mirror and assessing what they are doing to prolong the conflict).

E. It is a disservice to US-NATO trops and Afghan security forces to feed them bad intel.

F. It’s just not true.

Even John Walker Lindh (The American Taliban) had this to say to Robert Young Pelton:

“Here, in Afghanistan, I haven’t seen any Chechens.”

Yeah, because they have all gone to Montana.

Liveleak Afghanistan Video Channel

August 22, 2007.

Liveleak is quite similar to Youtube but it seems to be more popular with the troops. Also, it has an Afghanistan specific channel. You can see serious stuff like this soldier-produced report on a district meeting in Kapisa or reason #8792 why not to fly Ariana or this profanity laced mock snowball execution of American soldiers or this Jihadi video of an IED attack on an Afghan police vehicle in Kunar.

Anyways, if you are not down with Youtube/Google then Liveleak Afghanistan may be useful to you. Although it is over 90% military stuff so not everybody will find it useful. Also, you may be able to guess the target audience by quickly glancing at the single ladies ads on the left-hand side. Unfortunately my blog software does not support Liveleak so I’ll continue to use Youtube and Google for imbedded video.

Do Area Studies Students Hate America?

August 21, 2007.

Why is the government of the United States of America so suspicious of area studies students? And why have 12 of 14 applicants from a certain area studies program failed the security clearance process? It’s not just any area studies program. It is one that includes Afghanistan. These students, either with a Master’s or with a PhD in the works, have been told that they are insufficiently loyal to work in any sort of job that requires a security clearance.

Pic: Did someone drop this?

I have been at or affiliated with this area studies program for a long time, since before 9-11 actually (when people would say directly to me that my planned studies were “stupid”). Soon after 9-11 I was pointed to a photo in a newspaper of an alumnus of my program trying to look inconspicuous in Afghanistan while wearing civilian clothes and dodging incoming fire. I thought at that moment that my program would surely serve as a great resource in the years to come. But fast-forward 6 years and out of fourteen applicants that I’m aware of only two have passed the security clearance process.

The students applied to the CIA, NSA, State Department and the US military. The rejections came for a variety of reasons:

1. Participation in a study abroad program in Turkey.

2. Dated a Chinese girl for a few months.

3. Friends with a non-Persian Iranian who has been an American for quite some time.

4. Currently dating a girl from an extremely moderate “Muslim” country.

5. Taught English in Turkey.

6. Studied in Kazakhstan.

7. Dual citizenship with NATO country.

8. Married to a foreigner.

9. Polygraph examiners rejected guy who was too calm.

10. Dated someone from Latin America.

11. Traveled in the Middle East.

12. Etc….

I know these people and I can assure you that if Al Qaeda approached them with a bag full of coke and a roll of cash, they would not be persuaded to betray their country. If you say that “too bad, the requirements are rightfully strict.” I would point out that the US government is in no position to have such standards. This is not like applying to be a Navy flier along with many other extremely qualified candidates. I have met people in our intelligence community and they are good people, but they do not compare to someone who speaks Farsi-Dari and Uzbek and has studied the region in-depth for the last five years.

The trend that is emerging is one of rejecting anyone who has spent any amount of time overseas or who has any friends from countries where people name their kids Muhammad (or Ahmet or Aslanbek). The fact that loyal and over-qualified people are being rejected is not new. Everybody knows this. Even people on the inside of this process will acknowledge that it is a broken system. The paranoia left over from the Cold War is still in the bureaucratic machinery. But this is not the 1950s where numerous Americans had Soviet sympathies. This is 2007 and you won’t find many Americans looking to hook-up with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

And the two people who made it through? One had prior military service and the other didn’t do anything different than many people who were rejected. Perhaps he got in through their inconsistency.

PS: In my opinion one person deserved to fail. But every other person would be a strong asset and a loyal patriot. Also, I’ve not included people who were told “thanks, but no thanks” based on non-security related reasons.

Pic: This is my security clearance.

PsyOps Disinformation or Emerging Divisions Within the Taliban?

August 18, 2007.

Have you ever read a threatening pamphlet that is supposedly from the Taliban and said to yourself “this is so totally manufactured by an U.S. Army 37F“? I am willing to bet that more than a few Afghans feel that way about a “Taliban night letter” that was distributed in Helmand in July of this year. The pamphlet, that was purportedly from pissed-off local Taliban fighters complaining about the Quetta Shura, went something like this (from RFE/RL):

“We criticize the decision of Mullah Mohammad Omar. We don’t accept any other commander. If they continue on this path, we will leave the movement. We only want to carry out jihad against Americans and this is our wish. And we will fight until the end against foreign troops. But the decision of the leadership council in Quetta was a wrong decision. They want to appoint Uzbeks or Chechens instead of a Taliban commander. And Mullah Mohammad Omar, you should know that Pashtuns never want to be slaves. We will not accept a Chechen or Uzbek commander. It is still unclear whether Uzbeks and Chechens are good Muslims. Death is better than accepting their commands. If this happens, we will stop and leave everything to Mullah Omar.”

Hmmm. What is this all about? Well, as the story goes, the Taliban “leadership” met in Quetta and decided to put Al Qaeda fighters in control of Taliban operations. I seriously doubt this. So does Ahmed Rashid, who certainly knows better than I what is going down in Quetta. Rashid remarked:

“I think there’s a huge disinformation campaign — probably being carried out by NATO and the Americans — in order to present Mullah Omar in a light in which he is seen as being just a tool of Al-Qaeda and foreigners. Many Afghans would be prepared to buy that. Certainly, the Taliban propaganda is being countered now very decisively by a NATO-American counterpropaganda offensive. So we have to take all of this with a pinch of salt.”

As for that pamphlet, I am strongly leaning towards believing that it is a product of U.S. military psychological operations. Unfortunately, that puts me in agreement with a certain Qari Yusuf who is the Taliban’s spokesman of sorts. He calls it “propaganda.” Of course it is. And it is a decent piece of work if it is.

But what feels fake about the pamphlet? From my perspective, the use of “Uzbek” and “Chechen” have the effect of a dull thud upon the senses. The alleged hordes of Uzbek and Chechen jihadis roaming Pakistan and Afghanistan are a myth (I will fully deconstruct this in the very near future). The Taliban knows this, but the Pakistani government and some Americans are still peddling this trash (and some are even being paid quite generously for it. I’m looking in your direction STATFOR).

And seriously, “It is still unclear whether Uzbeks and Chechens are good Muslims. Death is better than accepting their commands.” The rural Pashtun Taliban are not so much into takfir. Especially in regards to Sunni Muslims from lands far, far away.

The second clue is the “Pashtuns never want to be slaves” passage. Despite the overwhelming Pashtun make-up of the Taliban, ethnic grievances are not a great motivator for these guys. I would look more to the Afghan Pashtun intelligentsia and the ethnic entrepreneurs for this type of rhetoric.

And the third clue is the threat to stop fighting and “leave everything to Mullah Omar.” The Taliban are not the type of guys to threaten quitting. They may quit, but the threat of quitting is, and will be, absent from their rhetoric.

However, having said all of this, there is still the chance that this pamphlet is genuinely written by a local Taliban operative. And if it is, the author is an idiot. But if the author is a American PSYOPS team, I give them a B+ (taking in to consideration grade inflation at American universities). This stuff is probably somewhat effective with locals, who hopefully don’t speak English, don’t have internet access, and don’t read my blog analytical articles.

Disclaimer: I am neither a member of the United States Army PSYOPS nor of the Taliban. So to quote Ahmed Rashid, “take all of this with a pinch of salt.”

Totally out of context quote #14

August 13, 2007.

Via afghanwire.com:

When I visited Ghor province, a government official told me that a huge number of girls in the province were married by force. This means that they are sold. A while back, a girl was even sold in exchange for a horse. […] It is better than the incident that happened last year in Kunduz province: there, a girl was exchanged for a dog. This, however, is a horse.

Context: A horse is a horse of course…..unless it’s being traded for a human being. Then it’s just part of some horrible equation. And noted somewhat sarcastically (I think) by the above journalist of the newspaper Eqtedar-e Milli, it is better than being traded for a dog. But the dog was an expenive prize fighting dog and who knows the quality of the horse involved in the trade.

Anyways, there is a list of NGOs that focus on women and children at the bottom of afghanistan-analyst.org/ngo.aspx. And you may find numerous books and articles focusing on the problems faced by women and children in Afghanistan in the bibliographies on afghanistan-analyst.org/bibliography.aspx.

Safrang Is Back

August 10, 2007.

The Afghanistan blog safrang.wordpress.com, written by an Afghan-American, is back in action after not-so-mysteriously disappearing for strategic reasons. If you’ve been reading Afghanistan blogs regularly then you already know of Safrang.

And no, this is not part 2 of a 537 part series of recommending Afghanistan blogs.

Afghanistan and State Failure from a Majaristani Perspective

August 8, 2007.

I know, I know. Lately my attempts at serious analyses have been restricted to explaining Afghanistan through the lense of diet coke and post-modern art. Summer is bad for me. So why don’t you move along double-quick until you get to My State Failure Blog? It’s not mine, actually. It belongs to Péter Marton, a PhD student from Majaristan who specializes in state failure. The analysis on Afghanistan is excellent (a rare thing) and the blog is updated quite regularly with some great insights into counter-insurgency, opium cultivation, development, state-failure, etcetera… So yeah, check out (not) My State Failure Blog.

Seriously, a Hungarian scholar analyzing the Australian counter-insurgency approach in Uruzgan? That’s cool.

Afghanistan Is (Sort Of) Irrelevant

August 5, 2007.

For your consideration I will present two arguments: one arguing that the importance of Afghanistan is exaggerated and another arguing that Afghanistan is, and will remain, important.

So...Afghanistan is not important because:

A) The “bases” for terrorism have shifted to Pakistan, Iraq, the Middle East Europe and even to the United States and Canada. That’s with the current understanding that a built-up AQ training camp full of guys in black pajamas jumping through fiery rings is so 1997.

B) I’m no Bonnie Boyd, but it seems to me that as an energy transit route, Afghanistan is not a great candidate. The likelihood of oil and gas from Central Asia transiting through Afghanistan and Pakistan is extremely unlikely. Can you imagine any oil company seeing a proposal for the Turkmenistan-Taliban Country-Baluchistan Pipeline Project and saying “Hmm…this seems viable”? (Yes, I know. And that just demonstrates what a second-rate has-been outfit Unocal was). You know you suck when you throw a party and the only people who show up are Bridas and Unocal. And now ten years later it’s even worse. Plus, Russia, and recently China, seem to have a good lock on the Turkmen energy sector. And why in God’s name would anybody think sending Kazakh oil or gas south is workable? No more non-viable oil conspiracy theories please. Just please, please look at stats for proven reserves in Central Asia as a percentage of the world’s total. And then look at what is already going through Russia and to a lesser extent through the Caucasus (and in the future to China based on existing agreements). There’s not much left to conspire over. I laughed along with postpolitical when they mockingly created the rally-cry “No blood for Caspian Gas.”

C) The horrid political environment in Afghanistan, which foreign entities have some role in bringing about, makes it appear that Afghan leaders are more concerned about their small circle of corrupt qawmis than about the greater good. The battle to create a viable civil society and some form of decent governance is going to be a multi-generational battle. Do “we” have the patience, resources and will for that?

D) Afghanistan has almost nothing of monetary value. It is the epitome of the resource-poor backwater.

E) Whoops. I forgot about the monetary value of opium. But that doesn’t really help. It actually hurts…a lot.

F) The historical importance of Afghanistan as a transit route to and from (Greater) India has been replaced by sea and air travel.

G) Overpopulation and environmental degradation will remain as serious obstacles to development. This ensures that Afghanistan will remain underdeveloped well into the future.

H) Is it just me or does it seem there is about to be a huge potential for an HIV problem in Afghanistan? Secret promiscuity/infidelity/prostitution plus unsafe sex plus lack of education equals Sub-Saharan Africa type HIV conditions. And yes, HIV cases have been showing up in Afghanistan. How could they not? So anyways, AIDS plus some other STDs have been shown to hugely hinder a country’s progress and development.

But……Afghanistan is important because:

A) Afghanistan is useful for maintaining a strategic presence in the region, specifically for the United States. *Cough-cough* Iran *cough-cough.*

B) The success or failure of NATO-USA et al in Afghanistan will have an effect on whether or not NATO, and specifically the United States, is viewed as an entity that keeps its commitments (whether stated or not).

C) The opium problem gets on this side off the argument too. The opium problem is not just an Afghan problem. For obvious reasons it can not be isolated. It must be engaged. We just have to figure out something aside from hoping for a functioning state to spontaneously appear in Afghanistan.

D) The moral obligation that the United States owes to Afghanistan. Leaving Afghanistan will not make things better. In fact it would be a shameful abandonment. Far worse than the last “abandonment“.

E) The arguments about overpopulation, environmental degradation, and disease can all be used as arguments for the moral importance of helping Afghanistan.

So you can look at these two arguments and do with them what you will. I lean strongly towards continued engagement, but of course with massive changes in “our” approach. Oh yeah, one more thing: meeting Afghans face-to-face will push you towards continued involvement in Afghanistan. So if you want to abandon Afghanistan just try to avoid making eye-contact on your way out.

Anyways, I’m sure there are some omissions in here somewhere. I’m still busy with foreign language learnifying so this blog post is just the result of a much-needed two hour break at a cafe, not a detailed investigation. So you know, stream of consciousness and all that.