Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Afghanistan and Corruption

From the semester’s worth of following the news on Afghanistan I see a trend of corruption in the government and it seems to be heading toward a downward spiral. There seems to be way too many secrets among Hamid Karzai and all the other officials that are leading the country. There are ulterior motives and greed that is running through this region; everyone is trying to have the upper hand whether it is to win the election by paying off people to vote for them or earn money by smuggling drugs. The Afghan citizens are so blinded by what is really happening and what their leaders are doing; the poor are yet again taken advantage of.
The strange bond Afghanistan has with the Taliban, Pakistan, and opium are all questionable and should not exist if they want to improve the welfare of their country and its people. According to Transparency.org, a website that ranks each country’s level of corruption, it places Afghanistan on the third to last country as most corrupted. The rankings are done on a scale of 1-10, 1 being extremely corrupted and 10 being least corrupted. Afghanistan gets a whopping 1.4, placing above Myanmar (1.4) and Somalia (1.1). What this country lacks is honesty. That is all that they need, an honest leader who truly cares about the well-being of his/her people instead of their own. The drug cartel and opium production is still high and the poor farmers are being paid by Taliban. Money and greed seems to rule this country. The U.S. troops are trying to decrease the number of insurgents and drug smuggling in the country by doing night raids yet Karzai wants us to stop and even suggested the troops to leave Afghanistan. It is understandable why the night raids are controversial but based on NATO’s report the night raids are very effective.  If good intentions are not welcomed then all the efforts made could not reach its full potential. If the Afghan government and people aren’t making an effort to change or care to change then there is no point for us to interfere with a country that is not our own, even though we might reap some of the benefits.
The latest news out of Afghanistan is how 6 NATO-led U.S. troop members were shot by an Afghan police officer. This is controversial because it wasn’t a friendly fire mishap nor was the police officer an imposter. Investigations are still happening at the moment to see what the motives could have been and if there are anyone else behind this. Another controversial news out of Afghanistan is caused by the WikiLeaks. According to WikiLeaks the president’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been involved in dealing narcotics but he denies all the claims made.
The oppressed far outnumbers the privileged. Religion is the heart of this region and nothing would change that anytime soon but in order for this country to improve in quality of life then the idea of that needs to be accessible by everyone.  By giving people a chance to improve the way they live without having to participate in illegal activities would be ideal. The poor are struggling to have food on their tables and if the Taliban are willing to pay them more money than they will ever make in a lifetime then yes, they would jump on that bandwagon. People just want to survive. If the government isn’t able to see that their own citizens are unsatisfied then that government needs to be updated.
Karzai wants to remain friendly with the U.S. but sometimes he seems manipulative and is hiding something, perhaps an ulterior motive. If he has to choose between supporting a bunch of “ignorant power-hungry” Americans versus Muslim extremists then odds are not in our favor. The latest story is how an Afghan police officer opened fire at the U.S. troop, killing six. This is controversial because the Afghan security forces are on the same side as their NATO partners. Investigation is currently being done to see whether the Afghan police officer (who also was killed) was an imposter and if not, whether he was paid to kill.
Granted, no government is going to go into any other country and make everything right and proper. Many times schools, hospitals and infrastructure have been built only to be blown up with children and adults inside. There needs to be cooperation on all sides. We don't want to be there any more than Afghans want us there but the rest of the world needs the Middle East to function because we are all intertwined. We all want that part of the world to be at peace and to prosper. We would prefer they do it themselves and they wish they could without any help, but they can’t without support. The rest of the world seems to believe the people there are important and deserve to prosper or we wouldn't be sending our people and money to help.
Afghanistan is trying hard to change the infamous image of their country, and it is a trial-and-error type of process. They are not only about war, opium and heroin, or terrorists. There is so much more to this history-rich country that people will die without ever knowing. The country is trying to improve; it is like a child learning how to walk. They get up, fall, get up and try again. The efforts could be seen, Afghanistan along with Pakistan sent their agriculture ministers to Colo, Iowa to observe the American cornfield and get tips and advices from the farmer. The agriculture ministers are hopeful and want to learn how their country could change the way they manage crops and agriculture business. Afghanistan wants to get rid of their negative opium-producing image since the country is well known for producing 90% of the world’s supply. They are trying to grow other crops that will help bring in money for the country.
The Taliban are anti-nationalist and they become a hindrance to the potential progress that Afghanistan could possibly make. The suicide bombings are causing so much unnecessary damage and casualties. All of these damages done to the country is like the idea of one step forward, two steps back. The efforts made are wasted because there are other people who would rather destroy than make things better. In order for change to come to this country (and remain!) is if everyone cooperates and live harmoniously despite their religious background or caste system. There needs to be a way that the government isn’t getting away with suspicious activities and that information about what the government is doing (and will do) would be accessible by the people. Afghan citizens are not ignorant, they just don’t have the chance or the opportunity to stand up for themselves due to all the dangers that they face.  
People just have negative thoughts and stereotypes about this country. By lack of support, Afghanistan is not given a chance because people rather not care about something that doesn’t directly affect them. What these people fail to realize is that this region does indeed affect us. On a global level we need this region to survive and thrive on their own, on a national level we want this country to remain friendly with us.
There is hope for Afghanistan and the Middle East in general. Change for the better is very possible. With better leaders and more honesty then many good things could come out of this. The school playground rule of “play well with each other” would help this region so much that they wouldn’t even know what to do with all the peace that they gained. Religion is important, that is understandable, but to fight and kill due to bigotry is absurd and anti-progress.  Patriarchal societies could thrive to a certain extent, in order for a society to be even more successful everyone needs to be included. If everyone, old and young, poor and rich, women and children could voice their opinions then change would happen sooner. Open-mindedness is necessary for any form of unity to exist. No more fighting, no more hating on each other—only compromises and cooperation.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Night Raid Controversies

The night raids by Special Operations forces are upsetting President Hamid Karzai. The raids are controversial because Karzai claims that there are civilian casualties and that women and children are being involved. Karzai insists that the Americans stop and that any raid "has to be done by the Afghan government, within the Afghan laws." The raids usually consists of troops surrounding a house or compound (in some cases, there are helicopters involved). The occupants are demanded to come out or they will be faced with violence. The raids have been proven to be very successful in capturing/killing insurgents, according to the NATO statistics:
  • Special Operations forces have been averaging 17 missions a night
  • They have been conducting 1,572 operations over three months
  • 368 insurgent leaders killed or captured
  • 968 lower-level insurgents killed
  • 2,477 lower-level insurgents captured
  • About 80% of the occupants are captured rather than killed
From the Afghan perspective the raids have been flagrant and a symbol of American power. Karzai hopes there will be a decrease in American troops in Afghanistan but U.S. General David Petraeus says that if the raids were to be discontinued then it would be a disaster for the "Petraeus strategy" which is currently relying on night raids.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Girls' Primary School Burned Down, Hundreds of Qurans Destroyed

A girls' primary school located in Laghman province (eastern Afghanistan) was torched at night. There were about 850 copies of the Quran in the school's library, all of which were destroyed. Nangyalai Seddiqi, the district governor, stated that the fire was set by drug addicts and theives that attempted to rob the school. Investigations are still ongoing. There have been many cases where Taliban militants have attacked girls' school since the Taliban are against the idea of allowing Afghan girls attend school. This school that was burned down was built by an American provincial reconstruction team. UNICEF estimated that about 2 million Afghan girls are attending school since schools began reopening after the Islamist regime toppled. It is common that young schoolgirls, female-only educational facilities, and their teachers have been viciously attacked. Some of the ways they have been targetted are through poisoning, murder, and arson.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Drug Raid

Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's opium
Russia teamed up with the United States to destroy Afghan drugs laboratories. The raid occurred in Nangarhar Province (eastern Afghanistan) in which four opium refining laboratories and over 2,000 pounds of heroin were destroyed--worth $55.9 million. The joint operation was conducted by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Department of Defense, NATO, the Afghan Ministry of Interior, and the Russian Drug Control Agency. Of about 70 people taking part in the drug raid, only four were from Russia's Federal Counter Narcotics Service.

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of heroin and much of the drugs are sold in neighboring countries and Russia. 90 percent of Russia's heroin comes from Afghanistan. Russia's H.I.V. epidemic is growing faster than almost anywhere else in the world, killing thousands annually due to injected drugs. Russian officials have criticized the United States for not doing enough to stop the production of the drug in Afghanistan. Some have even suggested that the United States are behind the production and are encouraging the drug trade in an effort to weaken Russia. Afghanistan's opium production has been a major source of financing for the Taliban. This has been the reason why the Obama administration is hesistant about the eradication programs, fearing that farmers would turn to the Taliban for assistance.

"The goal is to identify, disrupt and deny material support to terrorism, and very specifically to the Taliban elements that are supporting this drug trade." --Eric Rubin, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Iowa Cornfields Changing Afghanistan Agriculturally

Afghanistan and Pakistan sent their agriculture ministers to visit family farmer Keith McKinney's cornfield in Colo, Iowa to observe and bring back beneficial information to better their country's agriculture system. Afghan Agriculture Minister Mohammad Asef Rahimi watched the American farmers with keen interest while thinking about how Afghanistan's crops could improve. Afghanistan is known for growing poppy and they are the world's biggest producer of opium.

"You have to understand that what the Afghan farmer is doing is rational. The Taliban give farmers the cost of raising poppies upfront; the farmers don't have to risk any money."  -Rahimi

"So what we have to do for building the Afghan economy is to suggest that there are other cash crops that could be grown...and benefit the farmers to a greater extent than growing poppy." -U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Rahimi hopes he could help his country fight this notorius reputation by implementing the ideas he gained from Iowa. He is aware that most American farmers are educated and machine/tech-savvy so he would only apply the ideas that would benefit Afghan farmers. Vilsack hoped the agriculture ministers could see the many possibilities to better their agriculture economy and the success it could bring to the communities and families. Raising crops like the ones in Iowa means that the Afghan government would have to create a credit system, build storage facilities, and many other supports would be needed. To bring hope to Afghan and Pakistani's agriculture minister, Keith McKinney believes that change is very possible. McKinney thinks it wouldn't take a lot to improve crop yields and that in the end it comes down to "better seed, better cultural practices, the way you till your land and take care of it."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Friendly-Fire Mishap

A British aid worker, Linda Norgrove (36), was taken hostage by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan on September 26. Ms. Norgrove was working for an American aid organization called Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI). She left in an unarmored car to go to Kunar to review a project with three Afghan men; two drivers and a DAI employee. All were held hostage but the three Afghans were released while Ms. Norgrove was still being held in the remote and mountainous area. She was killed in a failed American rescue raid. The cause of her death is still being determined by autopsy (carried out by British officials) as well as a joint U.S.-U.K. investigation, officials said earlier that Ms. Norgrove was killed by her captors with a suicide bomber’s vest. U.S. special forces unit raided the area to free her. British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the raid had been approved before the U.S. troops went in. There is a high possibility that Ms. Norgrove was accidentally killed by a grenade that was detonated by the U.S. special forces unit and not by the suicide vest. A review of surveillance footage, mission plan, communications, members of the rescue team, and video from the operations are all being investigated (led by U.S. Maj. Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command). The investigators said that there is conflicting evidence about whether Ms. Norgrove was killed by a U.S. grenade, an Afghan suicide vest, or both.  A suicide vest was found near her body but it was not clear if it had been detonated or if other explosives had killed her.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

U.S. Soldiers Killing Civilians and Keeping Body Parts

Twelve U.S. soldiers are faced with charges for killing three unarmed Afghan civilians. Five of the soldiers are being charged for the actual murders while the other seven are charged for helping with the coverup. The soldiers that did the killing were under the influence from smoking hashish and some were said to have brain damage from IED attacks. The sadistic soldiers were lead by Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.

Overview of what the soldiers did:
  • throwing grenades and shooting at civilians (separate incidents)
  • forcing an Afghan man out of his house and then shooting him
  • kept finger and leg bones as well as a tooth as souveniors
  • kept a skull from the corpse
  • taking pictures with them stabbing the corpse
One of the victim was Mullah Allah Dad, 45, a poppy farmer. He was at home with his wife and children sipping tea when a group of American soldiers in tanks came. The victim's wife, Mora, describes the incident:

“In a minute I heard shooting,” she said. “I saw my husband face down, and a black American stood next to him. Another soldier pushed me away. They pushed me back into the house and the interpreter made me go inside one of the rooms."
"Minutes after that I heard an explosion...I rushed out of that inner room and out the gate and the translator was telling me to stop, but I did not pay any attention, and then I saw my husband, my husband was burning.”

The soldiers claimed that Mullah Allah Dad was armed with a grenade and that it went off and he was killed. Mullah Allah Dad was unarmed and had no link to the Taliban.