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Topic 50 of 63: Afghanistan

Sun, Sep 16, 2001 (22:13) | Paul Terry Walhus (terry)
A land locked country in Central Asia that is in the news all of sudden.

43 responses total.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 1 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Sep 16, 2001 (22:13) * 19 lines 

For a quick backgrounder on Afghanistan, check out the CIA world
factbook entry:

Some possibly relevant facts:


Bordered by China (76 km), Iran (936 km), Pakistan (2,430 km),
Tajikistan (1,206 km), Turkmenistan (744 km), Uzbekistan (137 km).

Per capita annual GDP: $800

Adult literacy rate: 31.5%

Government: no functioning central government, administered by

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 2 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Sep 17, 2001 (06:23) * 4 lines 
Take a journey through Afghanistan.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 3 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Sep 23, 2001 (20:13) * 49 lines 
#2000 of 2008: David Kline (dkline) Sun Sep 23 '01 (16:33) 51 lines

First, the question of information. In 1987-88 the CIA essentially
liquidated any direct relationship with any Afghans inside the country. So
there has been a severe lack of information in Washington about who's who
& what's what in that part of the world for over a decade.

I mean, we sent a million dollar missile to destroy a $5 dollar tent in
Afghanistan in 1998, in response to Bin Laden's last major attack. We also
bombed a supposed chemical warfare facility in Khartoum, Sudan that turned
out to be nothing of the sort. Does that sound like good information
re: Bin Laden and Afghanistan to you?

So more often than you might imagine, these people absolutely do NOT know
what they're doing. And what's more, they admit it! How many times in the
past week have you heard US officials, including intelligence officials,
admit that we lack the crucial information/intelligence we need?

But now comes the 2nd question -- the qestion of *policy* as distinct from
information. The government can have legions of experts telling them, for
example, that the Viet Cong have strong popular support in South Vietnam
and still our government will plunge on blindly to disaster, following
policies that blithely ignore the facts presented by their own experts.

I use the Vietnam analogy for a reason. Because it was in that era that
the popular automatic belief that "Gee, our government *must* know what
it's doing" was blown apart forever.

The fact is, sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't.

If the reports mentioned in previous posts about the US pursuing talks
and/or a relationship with the Northern Alliance are true, then our
leaders are showing some smarts. And if we pursue those alliances with
anti-Taliban Afghans and others with *full respect for the sovereignty* of
other nations, then our leaders will be showing even more smarts.

And if, after snuffing Bin Laden, we then have the courage to say to the
Muslim world, "Look, we've made mistakes in the past, and have not always
paid heed to the legitimate aspirations of Muslim peoples. But we
sincerely want to work with Muslims of good faith everywhere to solve our
mutual problems make the world a better place for all," then I'd say My
God our leaders are the smartest damn fuckers in the world.

I have more than a little doubt that Washington has the courage to do this
last thing -- admit we've made mistakes re: the Muslim world. Powell does,
I believe, but Bush?

Still, you never know. Maybe, like Nixon & China, he'll surprise us all.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 4 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Sep 23, 2001 (23:38) * 50 lines

Among the points Cohen makes:

* The Taliban are not liked in Afghanistan and basically came from
Pakistan, with a fair number of Arabs as well. He specifically
mentioned the destruction of the Bamiyan statues and other anti-
tribal activities as having a significant impact in Afghanistan itself.

* It is critically important for the US effort not to be seen as fighting
the Afghan people, but instead helping them fight the Taliban.

* Bush has to relax the prohibition against releasing evidence againsst
Al Qaeda, not to satisfy the Taliban but to keep the coalition together,
especially the Arab and Islamic states.

* The National Alliance is dominated by non-Pashtun forces and so is
not likely to lead a national government, although it would be a part
of the coalition.

* The Israeli/Palestianian conflict is *not* the reason for the attacks
on the US (Cohen is in the camp of those who think that the bin Laden
phenomenon is about hating the US lifestyle; I find this less convincing
than other theories, or rather don't think it makes sense standing alone
without reference to US involvement in Saudi Arabia and Israel)

* The core numbers of terrorists and totalitarian types we are dealing
with are quite small, and we need to focus on them and not spread our
response in such a way as to create a new generation of terrorists

* One of the keys to understanding the advent of Osama and the Taliban
is that the US simply abandoned Afghanistan after 1989, among other
effects this meant that the non-Afghan fighters went back to their
home nations, didn't get any of the hero's welcome they expected,
and became easy recruits for Osama

* A key point: the strategy of the hardcore totalitarians among the
Islamic fundamentalists is to create an uprising among the 150
million Muslims in Pakistan, linked to the 120 million in India and
140 million in Bangladesh; this seems unlikely given that they get
active support from only a very small minority, but it is a concern

* Another key point: terrorism cannot become the national obsession of
the US. We have other concerns and interests to attend to as well.

The Sunday Times (London) reports that an SAS (special forces) unit
that was near Kabul looking for information about bin Laden's
whereabouts got in a skirmish with the Taliban on Friday night:

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 5 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Sep 24, 2001 (09:02) * 11 lines 

The San Francisco Chronicle covered this in great depth on Friday. For

"U.S. believes charities, drugs, weapons among sources of bin Laden's

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 6 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Sep 24, 2001 (09:06) * 35 lines 

"Afghan opium prices 'crash'"

"UN officials in Pakistan say the price of Afghan opium has collapsed
following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."

"Before 11 September, one kilo of opium was selling for $700. The price is
now between $200-300."

"The Taleban regime in Afghanistan had outlawed poppy production, but it's
now feared that cultivation will start once again."

"There are two possible reasons for the collapse in opium prices - some
Afghans holding stocks of opium are now trying to off-load them."

"They fear that their opium could be destroyed in American air strikes."


"There could be another factor - in July 2000, the Taleban announced a
complete ban on poppy production and then went on to enforce it."

"The UN believes the ban was so effective that production fell by 3,000

"Unconfirmed reports from inside Afghanistan now say that if America
attacks, the Taleban may reverse that ban."

"Many farmers resented the loss of income associated with the ban, and the
Taleban may want to win back popular support by allowing people to grown
poppies once again."


 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 7 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Sep 24, 2001 (11:29) * 24 lines 
David Kline (dkline) Mon Sep 24 '01 (09:26) 23 lines

Best news I've seen since Sept. 11 is today's front page New York Times
headline: "U.S. Seeks Afghan Coalition Against Taliban."

It appears that Washington does indeed recognize that the only way to get
Bin Laden is through the anti-Taliban resistance on the ground.

As for closing the borders, forget it. It won't happen because it *can't*
happen -- there are ten thousand crossing points and only 100 are manned
by Pakistani border police. Starving frightened people will flee. And the
Paks (and, I guess, us) will simply have to deal with it.

As for Rabanni, he's the favorite of at least one Afghan -- a former
member of the fundamentalist Hezbi Islami group -- who began emailing me
yesterday. I didn't know he was still alive (we had travelled into the war
zone together in 83-84), but even though from the more religious side of
the anti-Soviet resistance, he says Afghans would welcome US help to
overthrow the Taliban so long as we respect Afghan sovereignty and work
*with* the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban forces.

He also says an immediate dispatch of even 5,000 metric tons of wheat to
the Afghans would earn us "much love," as he puts it, from the people.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 8 of 43: Liz K  (ekelley) * Mon, Sep 24, 2001 (13:04) * 1 lines 
Hey Terry, what conference is this in? Is it the over-arching one that was discussed? I couldn't find it on the main list. Thanks.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 9 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Sep 24, 2001 (13:35) * 1 lines 
It's in the news conference and this particular topic is also linked to travel.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 10 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Sep 24, 2001 (13:35) * 17 lines 


"US wants Afghan king back in Kabul

LONDON: The Americans and a key NATO ally, possibly Britain, are
pressing much of Europe to support plans for a "post-Taliban
Afghanistan" governed by its 86-year-old exiled king Zahir Shah and a
UN-led interim administration.

The revelations, which figure in The Guardian newspaper, quote secret
diplomatic documents to say the US "is bent on force to evict the
Taliban from power" and will not stop at finding Osama bin Laden and
destroying his training camps. The documents quote the US
administration as canvassing the views of the allies after "the
liberation" of Afghanistan."

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 11 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Sep 24, 2001 (13:38) * 9 lines 
Good article in the NYT about the U.S. effort to piece together an anti-
Taliban Afghan coalition and the difficulties of doing so:

The Guardian UK has somebody on the ground with an Afghan rebel faction:,1361,557028,00.html

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 12 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Oct 14, 2001 (21:33) * 13 lines 

A resident from a nearby village walks next to unexploded ordnance in the village of Koram, west of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Taliban officials brought a group of journalists to the village Sunday to show them the damage caused by what they claim was a U.S. air attack.


(CNN) -- The U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan entered its second week Sunday night with airstrikes targeting artillery and heavy armor that had been moved to the mountains outside of Kabul, sources said.

Late in the evening, explosions also rocked the city of Kandahar. Sources inside the city told CNN they sounded like GBU-28s, or "bunker busters," laser-guided weapons developed for penetrating command centers situated deep underground.

Sunday's attacks came a day after some of the fiercest strikes since the campaign began a week ago.

Pentagon sources told CNN that U.S. planes bombed Kandahar Saturday for several hours, hitting several targets, including a Taliban military headquarters

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 13 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Oct 14, 2001 (21:35) * 3 lines 
A Pentagon spokesman told CNN that Koram "was not on our target list" and military officials do not yet know why the village was hit. He said it could have been hit by U.S. Air Force or Navy strikes, by British planes or by any number of players who have interests in the conflict. The Pentagon also suggested Koram could have been hit by a Taliban surface-to-air missile that went astray


 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 14 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Oct 14, 2001 (22:04) * 211 lines 


October 12, 2001

Michael Radu, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research
Institute, specializing in the study of terrorism and political


by Michael Radu

Much of the current analysis of the U.S.-British military actions against
the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan seem
to accept unquestioningly conventional wisdom on the
prospects for military success in that country. But the
major premises of this conventional wisdom are simply myths that have
developed over the years, either from ignorance or malevolence. The facts,
it will be seen, simply do not support them.

BRITISH AND THE SOVIETS WERE. The myth that the U.S. is destined to
follow in the footsteps of the two prior great powers who suffered
disastrous defeats there, Great Britain (in the First Afghan War, 1838-42)
and the Soviet Union (1979-89), has gained wide currency.

In the First Afghan War the British tried and failed to impose an
unpopular puppet king, Shah Shuja, in Kabul, thus uniting all the fractious
Afghans who, then as now, united only when threatened by the possibility
of an effective central government. The British garrison in Kabul
was completely wiped out, with enormous losses of life and blows to British

Britain would again fight in Afghanistan in 1878-80 and 1919, but these
were mostly limited operations, since London
had realized its error and turned to a policy of
manipulating (often financially) the various Afghan groups.
The success of this policy is demonstrated by the
transformation of Afghanistan into an effective buffer state between the
competing ambitions of the British and Russian empires. (Perhaps a better
term would be "buffer territory" since "Afghanistan" always was and still
is a geographic expression more than a real state, let alone a "nation.")

The Soviet experience in Afghanistan was equally ill-fated, and caused
enough bitterness at home to help contribute to the fall of the Soviet
Union. But the reasons for this have as much to do with factors on the
Soviet side -- including the large number of soldiers lost to preventable
disease, inappropriate military tactics and poor national morale --
as Afghanistan-specific factors. Furthermore, the very
ideology of Marxism-Leninism coming on the back of Soviet tanks was
rejected by virtually all population groups.

Importantly, unlike nineteenth-century Britain or the
twentieth-century Soviet Union, the United States has
neither interest in nor geopolitical reasons for wanting to control, let
alone occupy, Afghanistan. And unless there has been a miserable failure
to communicate, all Afghans know this. Moreover, developments in recent
decades, exacerbated
by the incompetence of the mujahideen regime (now
represented by the United Front, also known in the West as the Northern
Alliance) of 1992-96 in Kabul, have achieved what all of prior history
had not: sharpening ethnic divisions within the country. While all
the ethnic groups united against outsiders in the earlier conflicts, now
the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Aimaks, Hazaras, Nuristanis, and Turkmen -- ethnic
minorities that collectively make up over half the country -- are only
loosely and sporadically "united" against the Pashtun-dominated Taliban
regime. (The Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group but only 40 percent
of the
population.) It is no coincidence that the Taliban's
political and ideological center is not multiethnic Kabul but all-Pashtun

LARGELY IRRELEVANT. The implications of this myth are (a) that an almost
Stone Age military would defeat a twenty-first century power, and
(b) that the country's terrain is the same and equally important

While a great deal of Afghanistan is indeed mountainous and exceedingly
difficult for infantry operations, key areas -- the Uzbek border, the
Shamali Plain north of Kabul and the entire southeast around and
including Kandahar -- are perfect operational areas for heliborne
forces. These are
also in fact the areas of major Taliban force

As for the truly difficult mountainous regions, the worst of those, the
Badakshan Wakhan Corridor, is under Northern Alliance "control," but
certainly not under the Taliban's. The strategic Panjhir Valley remains,
as ever, under Tajik control, as does the entire area around Heart,
although not the city itself -- yet. It is only in the mountainous east,
around Jalalabad and the Pakistani border, that Pashtun ethnics may --
if the price is right -- continue to support the Taliban-cum-al-Qaeda. But
would the latter have the money to continue its control, or the
aura of success following the U.S.-British air attacks? That is doubtful.

Actually, the very fact that the Taliban was able to conquer
so much of Afghanistan from 1994 on points to other factors more relevant
to the potential for success here. First, there was the desire of many
-- in fact, most -- people for some order and discipline to be imposed in
their regions, so long as it was not imposed by a foreign (i.e.,
force. Many wanted an end put to the banditry and
warlordism, in order to stanch the emigration flow to Pakistan that
this caused. But consider the recent history of the city of Heart: under
Ishmael Khan, a former Royal Afghan Army officer, it successfully fought
the Soviets and in 1989 established an enlightened system in which girls and
boys had equal access to education. Escaping after being captured by
the Taliban in 1998, Khan is now close to retaking the city --
Afghanistan's most multicultural and historic. Helping Ishmael Khan means
helping everyone in Afghanistan.

The second reason for the Taliban's success was its ability
to buy local military-cum-religious leaders -- particularly
in Pashtun and Nuristani areas. With al-Qaeda and Pakistani help, that was
doable. With the money flow from Islamabad cut off and al-Qaeda now
centered on its own physical survival, the ability to buy local
warlords is limited at best -- and the U.S.-led allies could buy them
instead, at least temporarily.

Many of the large number of former military officers, civilian
analysts, and journalists now offering "expert opinion" have made the
claim that U.S. forces will face an endless guerrilla campaign in the
mountains (see above) and plains of Afghanistan. They generally base this
claim on the Soviet experience. But the claim is wrong.

Unlike the Soviets, whose support was limited to a very thin group of urban
intelligentsia and (Soviet-educated and -
indoctrinated) military officers vulnerable to communist atheistic and
secular propaganda, the U.S. does not proclaim
or harbor any cultural or religious (including anti-
religious) goals. Hence the Northern Alliance -- all Sunni Muslims but
moderately so -- and the Shi'a Hazaras see nothing wrong with the U.S.
Air Force being their air force against the Taliban. The implication
should be obvious. While U.S.-British Special Operations forces may and
should play a key role, most of the hunting for bin Laden and his crowd --
most of whom are Arab or other foreigners -- will be done by Afghans
themselves once the Taliban loses control over the major cities and regions.

And where would a Taliban guerrilla fight, if they are seen
as losers and no longer benefit from Pakistani intelligence and military
support? With the major air bases of Shindand in the West, Bagram in the
Kabul area, and Mazar e Sharif in the north already out of commission,
and some minor ones already under anti-Taliban control, U.S. forces will
have free access to operations throughout the country.

This theory is based on all the above fallacies. It assumes that al-Qaeda's
Arab (or foreign) militants could find refuge inside Afghanistan,
without the locals knowing their whereabouts or acting upon the usual
Afghan dislike and suspicion of all foreigners, especially the more
recent dislike of "Islamic" foreigners.

In truth, any Afghan worth his history and tribal traditions would readily
join the winners (i.e., the anti-Taliban
forces) and capture or kill bin Laden, especially if doing
so made the Afghan or his group wealthy. So it might be asked where,
and for how long, a foreigner and his large
group of "Arabs" could hide in a country where the
population wants and needs international aid, money, and food, and is
historically xenophobic?

LONG-TERM ALTERNATIVE TO THE TALIBAN. This is the Islamabad thesis --
but then, Islamabad is not exactly an objective observer. The theory's
flaws are many. To begin with, as noted above, the non-Pashtun ethnic
minorities who make up the United Front, which is recognized by the UN as
the government of Afghanistan, collectively make up a large majority of
the Afghanistan population. The
Islamabad thesis may hold for Pakistan itself, which
incidentally has more Pashtuns than does Afghanistan, but for
Afghanistan? That does not mean leaving the Pashtuns entirely out of a
future new power distribution.

Second, the Pashtuns are not, as Secretary Rumsfeld has begun calling
them, "southern tribes." They are, to use George Bernard Shaw's phrase,
"a people separated by a common language." The Durrani confederation
in the east and south is the Taliban's power base. But -- and this is a very
large but -- the Ghilzai confederation in the east (with Jalalabad its
center) is unhappy with the Durrani/Taliban power-sharing arrangements.
They are equally represented in Pakistan, hence Musharaff's admittedly
daring challenge to the Taliban. The former King Zahir Shah is a Pashtun,
he is recognized (probably temporarily, as all things are and always
will be in Afghanistan), and he could probably rally enough of his people
to get rid of the bin Laden gang of foreigners, with some financial

We must all consider these facts in thinking about
Afghanistan and the success probabilities for the U.S.- British led
military action -- especially when we are barraged with ill-informed
arguments to the contrary.

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 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 15 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Oct 14, 2001 (23:00) * 18 lines 

By Alan Elsner and Sayed Salahuddin

WASHINGTON/KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. warplanes bombed Afghanistan for the second week after President Bush rejected a new offer from the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country and Secretary of State Colin Powell headed for Pakistan to shore up support.

Meanwhile, a nervous United States continued fearful of strange letters as new reports of people exposed to the bioterrorism agent anthrax surfaced. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warned that the country will remain on high alert for an undetermined time.

American warplanes screamed over Afghanistan overnight, pounding Kabul and other cities despite the ruling Taliban offers to the United States and their civil war foes.

The capital Kabul and Taliban stronghold of Kandahar were hit as the campaign to flush out Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden -- who the United States accuses of masterminding the Sept. 11 hijack plane attacks on American soil, killing more than 5,000 civilians -- moved into a second week.

At least one plane dropped bombs on the Afghan capital on Monday morning, Qatar's al-Jazeera satellite television said.

Its correspondent in Kabul said more than one plane circled the capital and that the raids were continuing. He added that smoke could be seen in the distance.

Kabul's international telephone exchange was destroyed, cutting Afghanistan's last fixed, albeit unreliable, link to the outside world, the British Broadcasting Corp reported.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 16 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Tue, Oct 16, 2001 (08:42) * 248 lines 
Warning, this is a long quote.


Many of you are probably not aware that I was one of the last American
citizens to have spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan. I was
first there in 1993, providing relief and assistance to refugees along
the Tajik border, and in this capacity have traveled all along the
border region between the two countries.

In 1998 and 1999, I was the Deputy Program Manager for the UN's mine
action program in Afghanistan. This program is the largest civilian
employer in the country with over 5,000 persons clearing mines and
UXO. In this later capacity, I was somewhat ironically engaged in a
"Holy War," as decreed by the Taliban, against the evil of landmines;
and by a special proclamation of Mullah Omar, all those who might have
died in this effort were considered to be "martyrs" -- even an
"infidel" like myself.

The mine action program is the most respected relief effort in the
country, and because of this I had the opportunity to travel
extensively without too much interference or restriction. I still have
extensive contacts in the area and among the Afghan community and
read a great deal on the subject.

I had wanted to write earlier and share some of my perspectives, but
quite frankly, I have been a bit too popular in DC this past week and
have not had time. Dr. Tony Kern's comments were excellent and I would
like to use them as a basis for sharing some observations.
First, he is absolutely correct. This war is about will, resolve and
character. I want to touch on that later, but first I want to share
some comments about our "enemy."

Our enemy is not the people of Afghanistan. The country is devastated
beyond what most of us can imagine. The vast majority of the people
live day-to-day, hand-to-mouth in abject conditions of poverty, misery
and deprivation. Less than 30% of the men are literate, the women
even less. The country is exhausted, and desperately wants something
like peace. They know very little of the world at large, and have no
access to information or knowledge that would counter what they are
being told by the Taliban. They have nothing left, nothing that is
except for their pride.

Who is our enemy? Well, our enemy is a group of non-Afghans, often
referred to by the Afghans as "Arabs" and a fanatical group of
religious leaders and their military cohort, the Taliban. The
non-Afghan contingent came from all over the Islamic world to fight in
the war against the Russians. Many came using a covert network
created with assistance by our own government.

OBL (as Osama bin Laden was referred to by us in the country at the
time) restored this network to bring in more fighters, this time to
support the Taliban in their civil war against the former Mujehdeen.
Over time, this military support along with financial support has
allowed OBL and his "Arabs" to co-opt significant government
activities and leaders. OBL is the "inspector general" of Taliban
armed forces; his bodyguards protect senior Talib leaders and he has
built a system of deep bunkers for the Taliban, which were designed to
withstand cruise missile strikes (uhm, where did he learn to do
that?). His forces basically rule the southern city of Kandahar.

This high-profile presence of OBL and his "Arabs" has, in the last 2
years or so, started to generate a great deal of resentment on the
part of the local Afghans. At the same time, the legitimacy of the
Taliban regime has started to decrease as it has failed to end the
war, as local humanitarian conditions have worsened and as "cultural"
restrictions have become even harsher.

It is my assessment that most Afghans no longer support the Taliban.
Indeed the Taliban have recently had a very difficult time getting
recruits for their forces and have had to rely more and more on
non-Afghans, either from Pushtun tribes in Pakistan or from OBL. OBL
and the Taliban, absent any US action, were probably on their way to
sharing the same fate that all other outsiders and outside doctrines
have experienced in Afghanistan -- defeat and dismemberment.

During the Afghan war with the Soviets, much attention was paid to the
martial prowess of the Afghans. We were all at West Point at the
time, and most of us had high-minded idealistic thoughts about how we
would all want to go help the brave "freedom fighters" in their
struggle against the Soviets.

Those concepts were naive to the extreme. The Afghans, while never
conquered as a nation, are not invincible in battle. A "good" Afghan
battle is one that makes a lot of noise and light. Basic military
skills are rudimentary and clouded by cultural constraints that no
matter what, a warrior should never lose his honor. Indeed, firing
from the prone is considered distasteful (but still done).

Traditionally, the Afghan order of battle is very feudal in nature,
with fighters owing allegiance to a "commander," and this person owing
allegiance upwards and so on and so on. Often such allegiance is
secured by payment. And while the Taliban forces have changed this
somewhat, many of the units in the Taliban army are there because they
are being paid to be there. All such groups have very strong
loyalties along ethnic and tribal lines.

Again, the concept of having a place of "honor" and "respect" is of
paramount importance and blood feuds between families and tribes can
last for generations over a perceived or actual slight. That is one
reason why there were 7 groups of Mujehdeen fighting the Russians. It
is a very difficult task to form and keep united a large bunch of
Afghans into a military formation. The "real" stories that have come
out of the war against the Soviets are very enlightening and a lot
different from our fantastic visions as cadets.

When the first batch of Stingers came in and were given to one
Mujehdeen group, another group -- supposedly on the same side --
attacked the first group and stole the Stingers, not so much because
they wanted to use them, but because having them was a matter of

Many larger coordinated attacks that advisers tried to conduct failed
when all the various Afghan fighting groups would give up their
assigned tasks (such as blocking or overwatch) and instead would join
the assault group in order to seek glory.

In comparison to Vietnam, the intensity of combat and the rate of
fatalities were lower for all involved.

As you can tell from above, it is my assessment that these guys are
not THAT good in a purely military sense and the "Arabs" probably even
less so than the Afghans. So why is it that they have never been
conquered? It goes back to Dr. Kern's point about will.

During their history, the only events that have managed to form any
semblance of unity among the Afghans, is the desire to fight foreign
invaders. And in doing this, the Afghans have been fanatical. The
Afghans' greatest military strength is the ability to endure hardships
that would, in all probability, kill most Americans and enervate the
resolve of all but the most elite military units.

The physical difficulties of fighting in Afghanistan, the terrain, the
weather, and the harshness are all weapons that our enemies will use
to their advantage and use well. (NOTE: For you military planner types
and armchair generals: around November 1st, most road movement is
impossible, in part because all the roads used by the Russians have
been destroyed and air movement will be problematic at best). Also,
those fighting us are not afraid to fight. OBL and others do not think
the US has the will or the stomach for a fight. Indeed after the
absolutely inane missile strikes of 1998, the overwhelming consensus
was that we were cowards who would not risk one life in face-to-face

Rather than demonstrating our might and acting as a deterrent, that
action and others of the not so recent past, have reinforced the
perception that the US does not have any "will" and that we are
morally and spiritually corrupt.

Our challenge is to play to the weaknesses of our enemy, notably their
propensity for internal struggles, the distrust between the
extremists/Arabs and the majority of Afghans, their limited ability to
fight coordinated battles, and their lack of external support. More
importantly through is that we have to take steps not to play to their
strengths, which would be to unite the entire population against us
by increasing their suffering or killing innocents, to get bogged down
trying to hold terrain, or to get into a battle of attrition chasing
up and down mountain valleys.

I have been asked how I would fight the war. This is a big question
and well beyond my pay grade or expertise. And while I do not want to
second guess current plans or start an academic debate, I would share
the following from what I know about Afghanistan and the Afghans.
First, I would give the Northern Alliance a big wad of cash so that
they can buy off a chunk of the Taliban army before winter. Second,
also with this cash, I would pay some guys to kill some of the Taliban
leadership, making it look like an inside job to spread distrust and
build on existing discord. Third I would support the Northern alliance
with military assets, but not take it over or adopt so high a profile
as to undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of most Afghans.

Fourth would be to give massive amounts of humanitarian aid and
assistance to the Afghans in Pakistan in order to demonstrate our
goodwill and to give these guys a reason to live rather than the
choice between dying of starvation or dying fighting the "infidel."
Fifth, start a series of public works projects in areas of the country
not under Taliban control (these are much more than the press
reports) again to demonstrate goodwill and that improvements come with
peace. Sixth, I would consider very carefully putting any female
service members into Afghanistan proper -- sorry to the females of our
class but within that culture a man who allows a women to fight for
him has zero respect, and we will need respect to gain the cooperation
of Afghan allies. No Afghan will work with a man who fights with

I would hold off from doing anything too dramatic in the new term,
keeping a low level of covert action and pressure up over the winter,
allowing this pressure to force open the fissions around the Taliban
that were already developing -- expect that they will quickly turn on
themselves and on OBL.

We can pick up the pieces next summer, or the summer after.

When we do "pick up" the pieces, I would make sure that we do so on
the ground, "man to man."

While I would never want to advocate American causalities, it is
essential that we communicate to OBL and all others watching that we
can and will "engage and destroy the enemy in close combat." As
mentioned above, we should not try to gain or hold terrain, but
Infantry operations against the enemy are essential. There can be no
excuses after the defeat or lingering doubts in the minds of our
enemies regarding American resolve and nothing, nothing will
communicate this except for ground combat.

And once this is all over, unlike in 1989, the US must provide
continued long-term economic assistance to rebuild the country.

While I have written too much already, I think it is also important to
share a few things on the subject of brutality. Our opponents will
not abide by the Geneva conventions. There will be no prisoners unless
there is a chance that they can be ransomed or made part of a local
prisoner exchange.

During the war with the Soviets, videotapes were made of communist
prisoners having their throats slit. Indeed, there did exist a "trade"
in prisoners so that souvenir videos could be made by outsiders to
take home with them.

This practice has spread to the Philippines, Bosnia and Chechnya where
similar videos are being made today and can be found on the web for
those so inclined. We can expect our soldiers to be treated the same
way. Sometime during this war I expect that we will see videos of US
prisoners having their heads cut off.

Our enemies will do this not only to demonstrate their "strength" to
their followers, but also to cause us to overreact, to seek wholesale
revenge against civilian populations, and to turn this into the
world-wide religious war that they desperately want.

This will be a test of our will and of our character. (For further
collaboration of this type of activity please read Kipling).

This will not be a pretty war; it will be a war of wills, of resolve
and somewhat conversely of compassion and of a character. Towards our
enemies, we must show a level of ruthlessness that has not been part
of our military character for a long time. But to those who are not
our enemies we must show a level of compassion probably unheard of
during war. We should do this not for humanitarian reasons, even
though there are many, but for shrewd military logic.

For anyone who is still reading this way too long note, thanks for
your patience. I will try to answer any questions that may arise in a
more concise manner.

Richard Kidd

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 17 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Nov  4, 2001 (10:18) * 32 lines 
"The CIA has found itself relying heavily on the Pakistani Interservices
Intelligence agency, which helped create the Taliban and remained its chief
backer until Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, took steps to
sever those ties in September. An American intelligence official said the
CIA is "using whatever means necessary" to recruit a few commanders on its
own to ensure a channel of information unfiltered by Pakistan."

After nearly four weeks of intense aerial and electronic surveillance and
scattered bombing, bin Laden has avoided becoming the highly visible trophy
the Bush administration originally identified as the primary target --
"dead or alive" -- of its attacks in Afghanistan.

U.S. intelligence efforts directed against bin Laden have been hobbled by
the lack of informed U.S. operatives on the ground, and disarray and
distrust within Pakistan's intelligence service, the agency with the
potential to know the most about bin Laden's whereabouts, according to
officials familiar with the operations.

"They don't have the sources, the information," said Ahmed Rashid, an
author who has written about the Taliban and traveled extensively through
Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in recent years. "It's going to take many
months to build it up. They need anti-Taliban Afghanis on the ground. For
that, they have to help build the anti-Taliban movement in the south, and
it's going to take time and money and lots of effort. It's not something
you can do with U.S. commanders and U.S. bombs."

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 18 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Tue, Nov  6, 2001 (09:42) * 60 lines is about how the Soviets entered in 78.

David Kline (dkline) Sun Nov 4 '01 (18:22) 15 lines

Yes, indeed. Good synopsis. And it's eerily reminiscent of the reasons the
US committed ground troops to Vietnam in the 1960s: Both superpowers faced
a client regime threatened with overthrow by a popular revolt. Their
choice was to either let their puppets fall -- and thereby send a message
to other countries in their sphere of influence that rebellion was in fact
feasible -- or to intervene directly with their own armed forces.

Just as LBJ and his advisors had in Vietnam, the Soviet Politburo decided
that the better choice was to replace their "advisors" with large numbers
of ground troops. After all, they thought, slapping down those "ragheads"
(or in Vietnam's case, those "gooks") ought to be a cakewalk, right?


And in the news:

Neither the current bombing campaign nor the deployment of American ground
forces to Afghanistan offers good military options for dealing with the
Taliban and Al Qaeda. A better approach would emphasize ground-level
diplomacy, with open wallets, among Pashtun leaders in central and southern
Afghanistan, the fullest use of Pakistani intelligence and influence, and
selective military actions. The moment for dramatic demonstration of
American military power has passed. Our resolve must now be expressed
through many careful steps, or we will never achieve the victory we seek
against Al Qaeda.

Hundreds of Arab extremists thought to be fighting alongside Osama bin
Laden were given citizenship by the former Afghan government, whose leaders
are now allies of America, according to documents provided by the Taliban
on Saturday.

The United States and its allies could end up dealing with a new set of
Afghan leaders with their own ties to al-Qa'ida.

The documents show that at least 604 people from countries such as Algeria,
Libya, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were granted Afghan citizenship in March 1993
by President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Mr Rabbani, who was ousted by the Taliban
in 1996, now heads the Northern Alliance which is fighting the Taliban.

Sudden Resonance for an Iranian Film About Afghanistan,1361,588285,00.html

which talks about Pakistans involvement in the creation of the Taliban.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 19 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Thu, Nov  8, 2001 (09:52) * 10 lines 

WBUR is posting daily summaries of coverage on Al Jazeera

Background at

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 20 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Tue, Nov 13, 2001 (10:04) * 36 lines 
From the bbc website:

Residents said music - banned by the Taleban - was broadcast on Kabul radio for the first time in five years.

"You can celebrate this great victory," a female announcer told residents - another novelty in a city where women have been banned from most work and education since 1996.

And men have been queuing at barbers' shops to have their beards shaved off - another gesture of freedom from the strict Taleban interpretation of Islam.

Northern Alliance Defence Minister General Mohammad Fahim and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah have now entered Kabul.

Anti-Taleban crowds

Earlier, huge crowds gathered in the city, shouting "death to Pakistan" and "death to the Taleban," the BBC's John Simpson reported.

Correspondents say anti-Taleban anger is directed more towards Osama Bin Laden's foreign volunteers than towards Afghans in the Pashtun-dominated Taleban movement.

BBC correspondent William Reeve survived a bomb blast in Kabul

Thousands of people were seen crowding around an aid agency and carrying away tents, food and blankets in taxis and on bicycles.

And the Taleban are reported to have taken away the contents of Kabul's money markets and the national bank.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, said there were reports of looting of humanitarian aid "and there is a fear that the situation could turn worse".

The Kabul office of Qatar-based al-Jazeera television took a direct hit from a US bomb overnight. The building was destroyed, but the staff had already left building.

William Reeve says a US bomb landed earlier on a house about 100 metres from the BBC office where he was broadcasting. The blast smashed all the office windows.

On the way to Kabul the alliance forces passed through miles of devastation - ruined towns, razed orchards and burnt vineyards, the BBC's Kate Clark reports.

But as soon as they got closer to Kabul, she says, villagers stood cheering on the alliance, some throwing flowers on the tanks as they drove past.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 21 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Thu, Nov 15, 2001 (06:13) * 151 lines 
Check Out The Jagged Machete and Stolen Nightgoggles *8-/

Kabul greets its new dawn
Thursday 15 November 2001

Nothing became the Taliban so much as the manner of their departure. Their
rule had been vicious and incompetent, and their defence against the
Northern Alliance bone-headed and feeble. But when it came to saving their
skins, they were up to the task.

On Monday afternoon they quietly collected their things, piled into their
utilities and sped south. Those without transport held up cars on the street
and turfed out their drivers. They left behind tonnes of equipment, but they
got away. Their neighbors were astonished to find that they had fled like

When dawn broke in Kabul and the rugged mountain soldiers from the alliance
moved in, there were no top Taliban to round up.

The famous roundabout where the last Soviet-backed president, Najibullah,
was strung up by the Taliban in 1996 was empty. A black turban - symbol of
the Taliban - was hung from a tree in the absence of real bodies.

In the Shahr-e Now park, there were six bodies lying in the dust, one under
a basketball hoop, the rest in a ditch. A crowd of men on bicycles gathered
to gawp and spit on the bodies. They looked like boys, some as young as 12.

A Red Cross official, his immaculately pressed trousers stained with blood,
took on the job of clearing up the remains. No one else would lift a finger
to give dignity to fighters of the hated regime.

The official said: "These ones are fresh and in one piece. They are no
problem. We had two which had been torn limb from limb. That is not such a
pleasant task." In all, he expected the death toll to be about 20.

No one could say who the dead were, though the consensus was that they were
Pakistanis, cannon-fodder of the Taliban - so insignificant that they were
left behind, caught by the alliance and shot.

In their moment of triumph, as the Taliban were on the run, the American air
force could not resist a parting shot. Its last bomb was reserved for the
Kabul office of al-Jazeera, the Arabic satellite channel which served as the
mouthpiece of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

The staff left at 7.30 on Monday night, fearing the vengeance of the
Afghans, who see the Taliban as a tool of Pakistani intelligence and Saudi
Arabian money.

Six hours later, two bombs slammed into the al-Jazeera office, one lying
unexploded in the garden. The other bomb collapsed the building, leaving a
crushed jumble of studio equipment on the ground floor.

The walls of the building were still warm from the fire when journalists
arrived, but looters had taken the generator.

"They kept their last bomb for these Arabs," said the owner's son-in-law,
Mohammed Aziz, who was trying to keep the looters away from the last
remaining item worth stealing, a camera tripod.

"We're astonished. How could they hit one building in the centre of town?
This accuracy is something beyond our comprehension. When the Russians
attacked us they hit everything all around."

It was an arrogant and dangerous shot by the Americans. The office is in a
residential district, with a mosque on the corner of the street. The garden
was full of schoolbooks used by the correspondent's family. It could have
been a disaster, but maybe al-Jazeera's giant satellite dish guided the
bombs to their target.

The blue awning used by the staff to protect their work from the view of the
neighbors was blown into rags that stuck to the branches of trees all
around. The scene looked like the flag-draped graves common in Afghanistan,
a fitting memorial to a disastrous era in Afghan life.

A new media era was dawning. For the first time in five years, music was
played on Radio Kabul, and a female announcer's voice was heard. The Taliban
had banned music, working women, beardless men and much else.

On the street there was a grim reminder of the troubles ahead. A group of
cut-throats, as fearsome as any I have seen in my life, was casing the
street for empty houses to loot. The robber chief was armed with a jagged-
edged sword and looted Russian night-vision scope - a neat encapsulation of
the mediaeval and modern aspects of war Afghan-style. His band had knives,
guns and bayonets.

My driver, who is afraid of nothing apart from dogs and landmines, strode up
to enforce order on behalf of the Northern Alliance. The robber chief
claimed to be working on behalf of the "commander of Jangelbagh", a small
town in the heart of Northern Alliance territory. He chose the wrong town.

"What a coincidence," said the driver. "That is my home town. And what would
your commander's name be?" The robber chief looked confused. "I don't have
to tell you," he said. But the driver had the advantage. "Stay off the
streets. There is a new order now." The band slunk off as a patrol of the
newly arrived soldiers came into view.

All over the city, alliance soldiers and police set up checkpoints on the
main roads. But most of the serious looting had already happened. The
Taliban's stores of food and fuel were emptied in the morning. By the
afternoon the remaining culprits were carrying blankets and bedding.

As the main force of the alliance soldiers marched in, the streets were
lined with men and boys shouting welcome. "Afghanistan azad" (Free
Afghanistan) the soldiers replied.

As the raucous convoy headed for the town's centre, schoolgirls looked on
from the rooftops. Women peered from inside their homes, afraid to go out on
a day of danger and tension.

The shouts of welcome are a well-worn ritual. They hailed the Taliban when
they entered Kabul in 1996, putting an end to the factional fighting of the
old government, a coalition of mujihadeen that contains many of the same
people who marched back in. Naturally they welcomed the mujihadeen when the
Soviet-backed government fell.

But there was a real sense of hope. "The brains of the Taliban have been
blown out. Their time is finished. Everyone is happy about their departure,"
said Abdul Khabir, an aid worker. "Tomorrow I will shave my beard off. I
think the appearance of the people will change in the next few days when
they have time to adjust. It is a great day for women too, but you cannot
expect them to throw off their burqas from one day to the next."

Abdul Khabir took great delight in the news that the American pilot who
knocked out the Kabul television tower was a woman. "I heard this on the
foreign radio. She was very accurate. It is a sign for us," he said.

Outside the building for the Committee for the Prevention of Vice and the
Preservation of Virtue, where religious police once oppressed women and
insufficiently Islamic men, a man came to cheer an alliance soldier who
climbed a tree to remove a sign. The man knew the place well, having been
imprisoned for three days for having a beard shorter than the regulation
length, the width of a man's fist.

The government put out a statement ending the ban on women working and
studying. Afghan sisters, it said, would have the right to work "in
accordance with Islamic teachings and based on our honorable traditions".

The Taliban's rout is a great day for Afghanistan. But the speed of their
defeat still remains a mystery. They were not conquered. They just collapsed
like a paper tiger, to use Chairman Mao's phrase.

Their attempt to turn Afghanistan into the Islamic ideal, a replica of
Medina when it was ruled by the Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century,
could never succeed. As a critic of the hard-core Islamists remarked: "If
you are forever looking backwards, you are bound to trip yourself up."


 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 22 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Thu, Nov 15, 2001 (13:40) * 70 lines 
Eager to Schmooze With The Latest Winners *8-/
Emir praises the 'good fight' to liberate Afghanistan
By Alice Thomson in Bahrain
(Filed: 13/11/2001)

THE Emir of Bahrain yesterday became the first Arab leader to call the
fighting in Afghanistan a great war of liberation.

"I am so happy America and Britain are going into Afghanistan," he said.
"Liberating it from this evil Taliban will only be good for women, men and
children. It is a very good war of liberation.

"The Americans aren't like the Soviet Union, they are not trying to
overthrow Muslims for communists. They are helping the Afghans to progress
and saving poor Muslims from evil."

In an interview at Saffriya Palace, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said
Bahrain would not only lend troops, but would allow its airbases to be used
for bombing raids. The US Fifth Fleet is based at the island.

"If we were asked to send troops we would consider it, but they might not be
appropriate because they are not used to mountainous terrain," said the
former Sandhurst officer. "We would think it a great honour. We have helped
the British for 180 years and the Americans for 50."

Sheikh Hamad insisted that his neighbours in the Gulf states who didn't
support the war in Afghanistan were wrong. "Anyone against such a thing must
have lost their mind, it's a gift of God that the developed world can go
into Afghanistan and help to correct it."

The Emir who is a Sunni Muslim, said that Muslims should help to hunt down
Osama bin Laden. "How can Muslims support a man who is hiding in a cave, who
wants to return to the Dark Ages?"

The new progressive head of this tiny state disagreed with other Arab
leaders who have criticised the bombing. "It breaks all our hearts to see an
Afghan refugee crouching in a dust storm but this bombing is necessary to
free these people.

"We have supported this campaign from day one without any hesitation. It is
not against Islam or Arabs but terrorism. And terrorism should frighten us,
not the war against terrorism."

He said that Bahrain would not send blankets to the refugees. "They are a
tough lot, like us. They can survive the winter, what they need are

The Arab world must understand, he said, that the Taliban are not Islamic.
"The way they treat women is disgusting. What can we learn from them? Have
they given us better hospitals, schools or gardens? No. Women should choose
what they wear: a burqa, a pair of trousers, a swimming suit."

The Emir said that if bin Laden or the leaders of the Taliban were tried in
an Islamic country they would be treated extremely harshly. "Killing women
and children is not in the Koran," he said.

Arab states must ensure that the war against terrorism did not become a war
of religions. "In Saudi Arabia and Yemen even a strange goat is suspicious,
there is more resentment against the West. Here we are an island, we are
used to different peoples, we must lead the way."

The Emir said the issue of a Palestinian state should not be mixed up with
the war on terrorism. "It is nothing to do with bin Laden and his gang. I am
confident that the two states, Israel and Palestine, will soon co-exist.

"It would be a great help to the allies if these two states were created
quickly, to bring back the support of the Arab world that the West has lost.
If we do the right thing in Afghanistan, we must also do it in Palestine."

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 23 of 43: Liz K  (ekelley) * Fri, Nov 16, 2001 (14:23) * 1 lines 
thank goodness someone is speaking some sense in that region!

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 24 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Tue, Nov 20, 2001 (09:41) * 103 lines 
Canadians sorting it out:

"But this week Hosni Mubarak,
Egypt's President, ruled out sending any of his troops, saying he
feared they might return home as "terrorists."

Another Canadian story...

"LCol Farquhar suggested that the Regiment bear the name of the Duke's
youngest daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Patricia of Connaught.
The request was made tothe Princess, who graciously consented to the
Regiment bearing her name. The full title of the Princess Patricia's
Canadian Light Infantry was too long for everyday use, and the new unit
became known as "PPCLI", with "PPs" or "Pip Pips", the commonest
variants. The Regiment was best known to the general publics as
"PrincessPats" or merely the "Pats", but this partial abbreviation is
discouraged within the Regiment, which now prefers to be known as the

Brits under pressure to pullout:,6903,596981,00.html

Field strategy that led to Taliban retreat:,6903,596830,00.html

Keith Richburg and William Brannigan on the devastating effect US bombing
had on the Taliban front lines and mobility:

"The basic equation of the war, said a U.S. Air Force officer, was '21st-
century air and space power combined with 16th-century land forces.'"

And a Guardian report on the settling of scores going on in the wake
of the Taliban collapse:

Ordinary Afghans who are Taliban are not killed because of the nature of
war in this country. Generally, there is a short sharp battle after which
the loser, seeing the way the wind is blowing, makes a deal with the

Not so foreigners: the Arabs and Pakistanis fighting alongside the
in the lines north of Kabul were seen as invaders here to dominate the
country. They therefore get what they deserve.,6903,596920,00.html

The Taliban commander of Afghanistan's northern zone and the governor
Konduz agreed to surrender control of the northern Afghan city to the
United Nations after meeting with a group of Afghan tribal elders, the
elders said Sunday.

bodies of four Northern Alliance fighters believed to have been killed
four months ago while fighting with the Taliban. The bodies had their
hands tied behind them and were each shot in the head and torso. The
of all the bodies also were cut off. homepage is reporting that the Taliban is doing our work
for us:

Hard-line Taliban fighters in Konduz kill Taliban supporters willing to

Taliban fighters in Konduz reportedly killing themselves rather than give

Sunday November 18 2:03 PM ET

Afghans Pack Makeshift Theaters

By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan (news - web sites) (AP) - Standing outside a small
shop where a hundred people squeezed inside to watch a movie, one by
one the Afghan men shouted out the names of their favorite characters.

``Arnold!'' ``Rambo!'' ``Van Damme!'' ``Jackie Chan!'' they cried.

The collapse of Taliban rule in Kabul means it's movie time again.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 25 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Thu, Nov 22, 2001 (10:39) * 17 lines 
From a Salon piece:

The Taliban's deadly "refugees"
Taliban guerrillas are moving into refugee camps inside Afghanistan -- safe havens where they can regroup, skim food provided by aid agencies, and recruit new troops.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
By Ben Barber

Nov. 22, 2001 |

Refugee camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border, supported by foreign aid, are havens for fleeing Taliban guerrillas, who use the camps to recruit new fighters, for medical services and as a home base. The movement of Taliban troops into the camps -- assisted, one refugee analyst charges, by Saudi Arabian relief workers -- poses a serious challenge to the American-led war effort in Afghanistan.

Thousands of Afghans are already enclosed in camps at Spin Boldak on the Afghan side of the border between Quetta, Pakistan and Kandahar, Afghanistan -- an area that's the last redoubt of the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar. The camps are controlled by the Taliban; refugees are surrounded by armed Taliban guards, who allow armed Afghans into the camps if they are loyal to the Taliban. Food and tents sent by international humanitarian agencies are being distributed by Saudi relief groups, who may be the only nationality operating there -- the U.N. has no control over the camps and is afraid to distribute food because of threats of violence.

has the rest of the article.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 26 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sat, Nov 24, 2001 (20:29) * 64 lines 
David Kline (dkline) Fri Nov 23 '01 (09:19) 36 lines

My record of support for the rights of Afghan women and against their
abuse and suffering is very long and public -- you can search all of mty
articlews going back to the very first article I ever wrote for any
publications anywhere: a piece about Iranian women after the Shah entitled
"Beneath the Veil," for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1978.

I also spoke at somewhere over 100 college campuses about the plight of
Afghan women during the early and mid-1980s, trying desperately (and
futilely as it turned out) to raise support for Afghan women and debating
against leftists like you who refused to utter one word -- literally even
a token word -- against the Soviet invasion and butchery of Afghans,
especially women (who always suffer the most in war).

I debated Chomsky, who had the gall to insist that Soviet massacres in
Afghanistan (course he didn't call them that) were helping "womenh's
liberation" in that country.

. . . Chomsky has suddenly discovcered the plight of "[oor
suffering Afghan women" only since Oct 7, 2001 when the first US bomb fell
on that country.

But just to clarify. The very first piece of journalism I ever wrote was a
freelance piece for the LA Herald Examiner (now defunct) on the liberation
of Iranian women after the Shah in 1978.

. . . women under Islam was
actually my specialty, not war reportage (although I certainly did the
latter). I was a constant critic of women's suffering under Islam for more
than 20 years, even writing a piece for Advertising Age (of all places) in
85 or 86 on the absurd restrictions placed upon women and their images
under the newly-emerging fundamentalists of Pakistan at that time.

The indispensable Najam Sethi reviews the return of the pre-Taliban
factions to their places in Afghanistan today, and notes the current
sack race involving the 6+2 on the road back to Kabul:

. . .

And Afghan winters can be long ones, too!

Anyway, as a corollary to this discussion, folks here may recall that one
criticism I've often made of the US (as opposed to European) left is its
inability (or fear of) criticizing any people who may be considered among
the oppressed. I have cited the Sandinistas, for example, who the left
refused to criticize for their inhumane & illegal treatment of the
Misquito Indians, even though the Sandinistas themselves later apologized
for these crimes under international law.

. . . since Afghan women are oppressed, then their
representatives may not be criticized no matter how dumb their statements
or actions. If so, he would be merely following a long and infantile
tradeition of the US left of slavishishness towards the Black Panthers
and countless other "leaders" of the oppressed."

This slavishness is not a tradition with which I am in support.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 27 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Nov 25, 2001 (17:56) * 255 lines 
David Kline (dkline) Sat Nov 24 '01 (20:39) 19 lines
. . .

I thought I''d been rather nuanced about them in the half-dozen or so
extensive postings I've made here regarding their history, policies, and
behavior both positive and negative. But it'd be a simple nmatter to do
!extract on my views regarding RAWA, and I think I could benefit from
constructive criticism where I've erred.

But I'll need your help in pointing these errors out, since I
really do think I've put forward am pretty balanced perspective on RAWA
taken as a whole. My last post on RAWA, of course, was very critical
because it was responding to their very dangerous attempt to deny to the
one group most responsible for Afghanistan's liberation any right to
participate in a future government of that country.

But other posts of mine have been largely favorable towards RAWA.

. . .

. . .

If putting pressure on fractious Afghan leaders was all they were doing,
then I'd support (and have supported) that effort. Instead, what they are
doing is calling for the denial of political and voting rights to the one
Afghan force most directly responsible for the liberation of the country.

Bad move. It will only marginalize RAWA, because no force on earth --
whether US, UN or any other nation -- would ever agree that Afghanistan's
principal liberation forces, the ones who actually drove out the Russians
and later the Taliban and sacrificed hundreds of thousands of fighters in
the effort, should play NO role in a future government of that country.

Now I have listened to all kinds of legends and stories and half truths
about the past "crimes" of the Northern Alliance. I have tried to point
out to the extent these atrocities took place, they were largely NOT the
policy of the NA itself but of certain creeps like Dostrum. So-called
"warlords" like Ismael Khan, in fact, educated more girls than RAWA in
wildest pseudo-socialist dreams ever could hope to do.

I have also tried to put the existence of atrocities, warlords, &
factionalizing in context of the suffering endured by that nation. I said
these were not so surprising in a country that had suffered the
(were it America) of 30 million dead, 70 million starving in tents along
the border, and 75% of all towns razed to the ground. Hell, we have had
war in America yet we have far far far more rapists per capita than
Afghanistan does, but that doesn't disqualify US males from citizenship.

I realize that people think I'm an apologist for a) the Northern
and b) the Afghans in general. Yet so far at least almost all I've
said and predicted about the Afghans has come to pass.

People here said the Afghans surely must support the Taliban or else they
wouldn't be in power. People here said the Northern Alliance were a bunch
of warlords who couldn't get their shit together to fight. People said
Afghans are fanatics and treat their female citizens horribly. And people
said the citizens of Kabul were more afraid of the NA than the Taliban.

Excuse me? Is anyone paying attention to actual reality? Dancing in the
streets. A Kabul film festival. Women choosing (or not, as their desire)
to toss off the burqa. Very few reprisal killings so far. Quite a few
blustering comments from Rabbani and other officials, but so far everyone
is agreeing to meet to try to form a broad-based government, etc.

In short, despite the crying of wolf by concerned Americans on almost a
daily basis, would any of you have imagined two months ago that the
Northern Alliance in particular or the Afghans in general would have
actually done what they've done and done it relatively so well, overall?

But you know what, forget what I say. Disregard it. I'm hopelessly in
with these people and my opinions surely can't be trusted. Fine. Only I
ask that if you disregard my opinions, then to be fair you should also
disregard the views of the constant naysayers, wolf-cryers, and others
HAVE ACHIEVED in the last month. Not once has anyone here that I can
recall said, "You know what, pretty good job, guys. We thought for sure
you'd all butcher each other and then eat the remains, but gee whiz it's
almost like you Afghan tribal folk seem pretty close to human sometimes."

So like I said, disregard all opinions, most especially mine. Instead,
just watch what actually happens with a fair and open mind and a sense of
historical context.

And when you watch events on the ground, remember that similar
of atrocities and failure to unite were made against ... ohmygod, exactly
the same was said of the French during World War 2! The Frogs are all
collaborators. Look how they treat their women (who didn't get the right
to vote until 1946). Those resistance factions will never unite.

Blah blah blah. I can tell you that when all is said and done, far fewer
retaliation killings will take place in a liberated Afghanistan than the
30,000 collaborators executed (many without trial) in liberated France.

That's what I mean about us not getting all high and mighty about those
fractious raghead Afghans.

Will victory, peace and relative (to Afghan history) democracy come easy?

No, it will be a struggle. Armed gangs will have to be disarmed. RAWA and
external democratic forces in the West will have to push for women's
rights and an equal and fair voice for all. Would this whole process be
easier if Afghanistan still had a modest-sized middle class of educated
citizens skilled in the art of governance and dedicated to modern ways of
thinking? Wouldn't the effort go more smoothly if 50% of Afghan doctors
and 15% of Afghan legislators were still women?

Yes, it would, but unfortunately most of those people were exterminated
the Russians and then the Taliban.

And so the only ones left -- the ones who picked up the gun and fought
freedom for 20 years -- are the simple folk of the villages. They don't
know much about "coalition building." They don't have doctorates from the
Kennedy School of Government. They are what they are, and they're doing
the best they can (most of them), all things considered.

But of course it isn't good enough for our sophisticated tastes. No,
poor clods with their tribal fueding can't ever hope to be as advanced
sophisticated as we in the West with our representative
"politics" (bought
& paid for by Big Business).

Such primitives they are! Well, like it or not, I guess Afghanistan will
have to meet its challenges with the raw material of human skills and
talents (or lack thereof) at hand, plus a bit of help from the West.

But I have to offer one more opinion. Which is that in the end, after
probably not much more factionalizing (and far fewer killings) than in
post-Nazi France in 1944-45, the Afghans will succeed in building a
largely stable and just peace. Stable and just enough, at least, to begin
the long march toward even greater stability, justice and rights for all.

Just as soon as they create a government infrastructure where none now
exists, of course, a health care system where none now exists, an economy
where none now exists, an educational system where none now exists, etc.

Such primitives! Our lips can but curl in distate at their weaknesses.,4273,4304504,00.html
. . .

Okay, I'll give you 10K retaliatory killings in France, 1944.

Let's see if those pesky Afghan primitives reach even that high a number.

There must be something in the way I'm saying things that doesn't come
through. I keep saying, "Please understand the NA's (and the Afghans')
terrible past errors in the context of a destroyed people." In response,
people keep saying, "But you must agree that terrible mistakes were

?????? Why this disconnect? Why is it so important to pretend that those
who have faith in the Afghans such as myself are somehow *denying* that
they face a tough road ahead? Really, honestly, what am I missing here?

As if to prove my point that leading Afghans are very congizantg of both
past mistakes and future challenges and hence do not need to be reminded
by lofty Westerners EVERY SINGLE DAY how fucked up they are, here's an
extraordinary interview with the Northern Alliance Abdullah Abdullah in
today's New York Times (I swear I did not "order" them to run this


"Afghanistan is a country without any institutions, without any systems,
and what it needs in such a situation is a leader. We do not have one."


"It is very sad because we have a great opportunity now with the world
focused on Afghanistan," he said. "We will try our best, but with Massoud
alive things would have been totally different. We would have had a man
sensitive to every issue, someone who understood how to bypass obstacles,
a person whose yes was a yes and whose no was a no."

His praise for the dead implies criticism of the living. "Massoud would
not have come to Kabul without a political agreement with the
Pashtuns," Dr. Abdullah said.


The foreign minister also criticized the alliance for not securing the
nation's roads between the key cities of Jalalabad and Kabul, where four
journalists were murdered last week. "Massoud would have done this in the
first days, not the first weeks," he said.


"There is a generation that wants to see change, to get us out of this
vicious cycle that has brought war to the nation for the past two
decades. I'm not sure how much this need for change is understood by
others. But I am sure that if the same attitudes of the past continue,
there will be trouble for all of us."


Does this sound like a man, an organization, and a people who need
constant reminding that they're just a bunch of screwed up warlords?

Is there no victory, no avoidance of past mistakes, no self criticism
earns the Afghans even a single, "Good job, keep it up!" from our
conceited friends here from the West?

Or once again, does someone feel the need to point out that these tragic
people have made really "quite grievous" mistakes in the past.

The full article is at:

. . .

Btw, if anything I keep *underestimating* the Afghans. Here are two
predictions of mine, one made 11/18 and the other made 11/1.

In the 11/18 prediction, I underestimated how easy it would be to take
Kunduz, although I did aparrently get the timing exactly right. In the
11/1 prediction, I allowed my frustration at the death of Abdul Haq and
the continuing futile US bombing effort to make me abandon my early
October promise that the Taliban would fall in like a house of cards in
just a few weeks. Instead I predicted they'd collapse in a few months.

It seems I keep alowing myself to *underestimate* the Afghans in
to people here, so as not to be accused here of being too idealistic re:
the Afghans. I should have just stuck to my October guns (as it were).

November 18 Prediction:

My Bombastic Predictions for Today:

1) Kunduz and Kandahar will fall within 10 days. It'll be really really
ugly, because the Arabs forgot Kipling's famous warning about being
alone on the Afghan plains where the women want to come out and cut up
your remains. In short, they forgot they were in fucking *Afghanistan,*
which is the military equivalent of bringing a knife to a gun fight.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 28 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Nov 25, 2001 (17:57) * 136 lines 
November 1 Prediction:

If today's news is really really the truth -- that the US has finally
decided to commit serious resources and effort to enhancing the
capabilities of the anti-Taliban resistance [instead of merely bombing]
-- than I'd say within 2 weeks we'll start to hear some good news for
a change from that country.

The Taliban will no longer be laughing at us. They will start to sound a
little bit desperate.

By the end of Ramadan the first signs of internal splits within the
Taliban will appear.

And by Christmas, it'll look like it's only a matter of time before the
Taliban are ousted from power.

“The NA in its fractiousness was behind that.”

My principal defensiveness is to allow to pass unchallenged such notions
as the above. I'm so busy putting Afghan mistakes in context that, excuse
me, I've forgotten to remind you all that this entire tragedy -- and all
its atrocities and mistakes -- was almost entirely NOT of the NA's making.

Ever hear of a country called Pakistan? And of their stooge Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar, who started shelling Kabul on Pakistan's orders and broke down
the fragile but working peace that the Afghans had achieved in 1992? And of
an alien foreign terrorist organization called the Taliban co-sponsored
by Bin Laden and Pakistan that brought 95% of this tragedy to pass?

I suppose a "better" people could have resisted all the direct sabotage
from Pakistan and elsewhere, could have somehow survived and maintained
order & security against Pakistan's overwhelmingly-superior military &
economic might. But, whatever, Massoud & Abdul Haq were unsuccessful.

Actually, I'm in awe of Massoud's greatness as a leader not because
of his victories, but because he kept fighting against all odds and
the world's indifference and yet somehow managed to keep the NA alive!

So while I'm asking you all in your infinite whiteness to forgive the
primitive Afghans, please allow me to remind you that there is plenty of
evidence to show that much if not most of this wasn't even their fault.

I finally figured out the problem: I need to take a break from all this.

It's all so eerily reminiscent of 15-20 years ago when I kept writing all
my stupid little articles and dragging my sorry tray of slides from one
college campus to the next, pleading the Afghans' cause to no effect.

My Pulitzer nomination and a dollar still couldn't get them on the bus.

Back in the 1980s, the reason given for people's lack of support was that
since the Afghans were Muslims, they obviously *weren't* progressive. Now
the reason given is that, since the Afghans couldn't get any help in the
1980s and foreign sabotage and the slaughter of their educated class left
them vulnerable to error and failure, they obviously *aren't* progressive.

Weren't progressive. Aren't progresive. Catch 22.

The irony is that anyone who has been to Afghanistan has such an abiding
and passionate love for these people, it's really quite amazing. But for
everyone else, well the Afghans simply can't get a break, can they?

This is all too familiar for me -- Afghanistan as my own private kind of
weird Idaho -- and unfortunately all too emotional as well. I can't keep
doing this decade after decade & never somehow be able to do it right.

So I really appreciate all the great stuff I've learned here and all the
kind words people have said. I'll check back in after a while.

Amazing collection of photos of Afghanistan Now:
. . .
. It's not a matter of who's
better or had an easier time of educating girls, RAWA or so-called
Northern Alliance "warlord" Ismael Khan. They both did wonderfully, and
both risked their lives (Khan spent years in a Taliban prison being
tortured to near death). I only criticized RAWA for unjustly censoring the
entire Northern Alliance when they should be uniting with and trying to
educate every decent Afghan they can find -- including Ismael Khan.

Again, thanks to all . . ., but it's obvious I'm a
broken record and an ineffective one at that. It may all be new &
interesting to you, but I've been banging on the locked doors to people's
minds since 1980 trying to scrounge up a little empathy for the Afghans.

And in 20 years I've never been able to succeed at it. Fate has decreed
that these honorable and quite beautiful people (thank you Boz for those
incredible photos) will never get a break from Americans.

Which is soooo unfair! The Afghan people have twice shed their blood to
save the civilized world -- first to crack open the Soviet empire and free
hundreds of millions of victims of east-block communist tyranny; and
second, to overthrow the the world's first terrorist gov't, the Taliban,
and kick-start us on the long road to victory against Islamic terrorism.

But not even these great sacrifices for humanity are enough to earn them a
decent "thank you" from sophisticated (and safe) critics in the West. All
they get for the blood they've shed in all our behalf are our complaints.

The people of Afghanistan deserve our respect and gratitude. But instead
all they get is our constant sniping and criticizing.

So I just can't deal with this anymore. It's too unfair, I'm sorry.

In those wonderful pictures . . . , you'll notice
that several show women doctors at the "Rabia Balkhi Hospital for Women"
in Kabul. I just thought some of you would be interested to know that
Rabia Balkhi was the greatest female Afghan poet (in a nation rich with
poets), and was in fact the first woman poet in the world to compose in
both Arabic and Persian (Dari), the latter being one of the principal
languages of Afghanistan. I forget exactly, but she lived about 1,000
years ago, and her untitled poem below (which I've taken the liberty of
entitled "Dauntless") speaks volumes about the character of the Afghans:


by Rabia Balkhi

I am caught in love's web so deceitful
none of my endeavors turned fruitful
I knew not, when I rode the high blooded steed
the harder I pulled its reins, the less it would heed

Love is an ocean with such a vast space
that no wise man can swim it in any place
But a true lover should be faithful till the end
and face with courage life's crooked trend

So when you see things hideous, fancy them neat
Eat poison . . . but taste sugar sweet.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 29 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Nov 26, 2001 (14:22) * 13 lines 

"Former Inhabitants Trickle Back to Area Ravaged by Taliban

...Seizing territory just north of Kabul, they went on a rampage that was
meant to drive off forever tens of thousands of villagers they deemed
sympathetic to the Northern Alliance. They not only killed civilians, but
they also set homes ablaze, machine-gunned livestock, tore out crops, sawed
down fruit trees and blasted apart irrigation canals."

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 30 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Nov 26, 2001 (20:44) * 23 lines 
David Kline (dkline) Mon Nov 26 '01 (12:55) 11 lines

How ironic that my screenplay, written 11 years ago and telling a love
story set against the backdrop of the Afghan war, has as its surface plot
the (purported) Soviet looting of Afghan art. I spent a lot of time and
effort becoming familiar with Afghan art, but I must confess that in my
wildest dreams I never imagined that anyone would ever actually want to
*destroy* one of the greatest art treasures of human civilization.

Like I said today in another topic, one day the true cost of the
Taliban's brutal 5-year reign of terror will become fully known and the horror of
it will bring us all to our knees.

Indeed. Who'd have thought that anyone would have had to power to heal
the jaded-ness in us all and restore our appreciation of simple good and

Thanks at least for that, mister Taliban man. Humanity hasn't had such
negative inspiration since the days of the Gestapo and SS.

(Well, actually, we did have Pol Pot but I think many of us were still so
full of 60s-era bravura that we missed the full import of his misdeeds.)

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 31 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Nov 28, 2001 (09:04) * 36 lines 
David Kline (dkline) Tue Nov 27 '01 (21:00) 18 lines

. . .

In Afghanistan, influence is the center of gravity of power -- both armed
and political. Everyone has guns, yes, but the direction they are pointed
is determined by those who have the most influence. Influence over *money*
(as in reconstruction aid, cross-border trade, & outright bribes) and
over *access* (as in politics, appointments, & tribal status).

And in the new Afghanistan, the people with the most money, influence and
access to offer will be the new coalition government (especially its NA
components) and its American benefactors. If they say put your guns away
and obey the rules, all but a few of the most rootless and disposessed
small-time warlords will quickly fall in line. The few malcontents who
remain -- these will probably be people with little in the way of family
or tribal status to protect -- will likely end up in jail or dead.

So I'm actually optimistic, so long as factions succeed in forging a
broad-based transition regime. That'll be the harder part, I think.

. . .

I think it's too soon to tell how serious the security situation will
really be in the first few months of the new regime.

My guess, though, is that things will quiet down much more quickly than
people expect. It's just my gut feeling about the way Afghans work --
their highly-refined practice of "side-switching," for example, enables
them to end conflicts extremely rapidly with minimal loss of blood.

Then, too, look at how well (relatively speaking) they've already been
able to stabilize things in Kabul, Kunduz, Herat and (save for the prison
revolt) even the city of Mazaar-i-Sharif proper. So that's a good sign.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 32 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Thu, Nov 29, 2001 (21:05) * 32 lines 

Below are some excerpts from an extraordinary interview in the New York
Times the other day with Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah
Abdullah. Dr. Abdullah laments the fact that their great leader Massoud is
not there to guide the Afghans anymore, and he seems quite cognizant of
both the mistakes of the past and the challenges ahead.

A couple of excerpts:


"Afghanistan is a country without any institutions, without any systems,
and what it needs in such a situation is a leader. We do not have one."


"It is very sad because we have a great opportunity now with the world
focused on Afghanistan," he said. "We will try our best, but with Massoud
alive things would have been totally different. We would have had a man
sensitive to every issue, someone who understood how to bypass obstacles,
a person whose yes was a yes and whose no was a no."


"There is a generation that wants to see change, to get us out of this
vicious cycle that has brought war to the nation for the past two
decades. I'm not sure how much this need for change is understood by
others. But I am sure that if the same attitudes of the past continue,
there will be trouble for all of us."

from David Kline

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 33 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sat, Dec  1, 2001 (05:12) * 10 lines 
David Kline (dkline) Fri Nov 30 '01 (22:08) 10 lines

The wonderful thing about the Afghans and especially the Pashtuns is that
anyone can see whatever they want in them. For every negative story, there
are many positive ones (much like is true regarding Americans, I suppose).
One interesting way to get a better handle on what the people are like,
without any reportorial need to put forward a singular and un-nuanced
point of view, is to read anthropological works on the Afghans. I'm sorry
I forget the title right now, but check out the seminal work written on
Afghan culture, history, and economic activity by Louis Dupree.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 34 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sat, Dec  1, 2001 (18:06) * 40 lines 
dkline) Sat Dec 1 '01 (15:05) 38 lines

I've been waiting to see the Stingers myself.

As for the Russians, let me say that the Afghans had a lot of respect (and
fear) for their special forces units, who operated in larger formations
and in different ways than our special ops people do.

Also, it's very simplistic to say the Stingers won the war. I travelled
with the Afghans and saw them fight for almost 7 years before the first
Stinger was introduced, and the Mujahadeen managed to take the strategic
offensive long before they had Stingers or any other means of bringing
down those dreaded MI-24 gunshops ("Flying Tanks", they were called).

Right after the Soviet invasion, in fact, everyone thought the "ragheads"
would crumble. They'd never be able to oppose 100,00 troops of what was
then considered the strongest conventional army on earth.

But justb the opposite happened. The Afghans resisted, and resisted well.
I understand that the US provided arms and in some cases, advice and
training. But almost none of that went to the two principal resistance
forces doing most of the actual fighting against the Soviets -- Massoud's
forces and those of Abdul Haq, commander of the Kabul district. There was
a two-to-three year period, in fact, when Massoud couldn't get so much as
a radio or a bullet from the US arms supply train (dispensed under the
complete control of the Pakistani ISI). The fact of US arms aid ought not
imply that the resistance itself was ineffective as a fighting force.

Quite the contrary, in fact. By the time Stingers were introduced in 1986
or so, the Soviet invaders had already been pushed onto the strategic
defensive, confined to the principal cities and road networks, bloodied
quite badly in the field, and demoralized enough to seriously cripple
their combat effectiveness. Indeed, had it not been for the effectiveness
of Afghan fighting forces, the U.S. would never have even put Stingers
into the hands of the Afghans in the first place.

What the Stingers did was merely sped up the already-inevitable Soviet
defeat, and increase aircraft losses to such an extent that Moscow decided
to seek a much more rapid negotiated withdrawal.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 35 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Mon, Dec  3, 2001 (12:54) * 81 lines 
David Kline:

Just like I've been saying -- as journalists who supposedly make a living
by being observant, we're supposed to be more careful than to go into
areas that are too hot, too soon, with far to little armed protection.
have never (I hope) done what these 8 dead reporters did, nor gone to any
hot area without 25-50 guys whose sole and overriding mission in life
the next few days, anyway) was to protect me.

Anyway, great discussion. On the question of Stingers, I think I agree
with that we may see some deployed in coming days in the final
hill/cave fighting. I have seen MI-24s roaring up a valley or wide ravine
between two ridgelines 5-10Km apart, and getting picked off by Stingers
fired from the ridgelines. It also looked easy, but I'm sure it wasn't.

Bear in mind about the Stingers, though, that they're just paperweights
unless you happen to have them available and deployable *at the moment*
incoming air attack by aircraft *likely to succumb* to Stinger hits.

And without reliable communications to alert them to imminent attack, nor
deep experience with the capabilities and vulnerabilities of US aircraft,
Taliban fighters would tend to be extremely reluctant to fire their
Stingers. At least *Afghan* Taliban would, because the only thing they do
better than *acquire* military equipment is *shepherd* it for latter use.
No Afghan wants to fire his last bullet, rocket or Stinger and not know
from where the next one will come. They're always thinking about *future*
advantage or disadvantage, so that may be a factor in their non-use.

Another wildcard in the Stinger issue is the question of exactly who has
control over them? Afghan Taliban, or only the more dedicated and
(from Mullah Omar and OBL's POV) Arab legionaire Taliban?

Just in case our great fundi leaders chose Door No. 2 and distributed
Stinger assets only to the Arab fighters, then that's another argument
the increased possibility of their use in the Final Battle in the Hills.

Oh yeah, and , it is completely irrelevant that the *entire* Soviet
army could have *theoretically* arrested the whole Afghan population.
are not fought by *entire* armies, nor are they decided by who has the
greatest *theoretical* capabilities, nor (usually) is it to one's
advantage to exterminate or relocate an entire population. Wars are
by real-world, on-the-ground organized armed forces that have to fight &
win despite their real-world strengths and weakenesses, warts and all.

My point is that it's wrong to dismiss the effectiveness of Afghan
resistance forces just because, theoretically, the Sovoiets could have
shipped the whole population to Siberia if they had wanted to. Hell, they
could have nuked the whole country if they wanted, just like we could
nuked all of Southeast Asia. The fact that there are good reasons why we
didn't doesn't mean that either the VietCong/N. Vietnamese or the Afghans
weren't effective and successful fighting forces who *won* the actual
(not theoretical) wars they confronted, in the real world, on the ground.

Regarding the use of RPGs against Hinds, as I understand things, RPG's
*might* have been effective against Hind helicopters but only against the
MI8 Hinds. Corect me if I'm wrong, but I don't think they were any good
all against the much more heavily armored MI-24 Hind gunships.

It was quite an experience to see the Afghans' reaction to those MI-24s.
Heavy machine guns, AA, RPGs -- there was nothing they had that could
bring those fucking gunships down. The Afghans were really scared of
which made me very very scared of them.

But they fought the war anyway, and quite well. When they finally got
their hands on Stingers, then it was like they almost couldn't wait to
an MI-24. Come and get it, Brezhnev!!

Actually, I think it was Andropov by then. 1986, right?

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 36 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Dec  5, 2001 (11:35) * 59 lines 

The Bonn conference is over and a new interim government for
Afghanistan has been selected.

Hamid Karzai will head the government. Who'd have thought a couple
of months ago when Karzai snuck back into Afghanistan to try to get
Pashtun tribal leaders to revolt against the Taliban that he would be
the head of state on December 5.

The Northern Alliance got three of the 5 deputy leadership positions,
they're going to run defense, the interior, and foreign affairs. (The
three young leaders mentioned in the NYT article yesterday got those

The other two slots will be held by a Hazara woman and a member of
the Rome delegation who has been living in America and used to work
for the World Bank. He'll be in charge of finance.

David Kline:

Wonderful wonderful news. And a woman, too!

And do I get a small nod here?

I said the younger generation in the Northern Alliance would push Rabbani
aside if he stonewalled. They did.

I said the Northern Alliance -- indeed, all Afghans -- were sincere and
would make any sacrifice neeeded for unity. They have.

Btw, Christainne Amanpour and Sebastian Junger were both on Larry King
Live last night. They both said how surprised they were that rumors of
popular antipathy towards the Northern Alliance proved to be so wrong, as
anyone could see when NA forces entered Kabul to popular applause. They
also both congratulated the NA for its behavior throughout this conflict.

Like I said, it ain't your father's generation of Northern Alliance
anymore. Qanooni, Abdullah, Fahim -- these are modern-thinking people
who've known mostly war their whole adult lives. They want to be part of
cosmopolitan world, not stuck in some 7th century village. And they
represent the thinking of millions of Afghans who just want a real chance
at education and peace and modern life. Wouldn't you?

Anyway, kudos to the Afghans!!!

. . .

And please, just take a second to look at this article and remember Abdul
Haq, who (you never know) might be the new Afghan Prime Minister rather
than Hamid Karzai had he not been executed by the Taliban 6 weeks ago. So
ironic. Anyway, there's a photo of the noose they used to hang my friend.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 37 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Tue, Dec 11, 2001 (20:44) * 32 lines

By the BBC's Peter Greste

Sufis are free to practice their ancient worship once again - and they are
doing so with an exuberance denied to them for the past six years.


At the core of their beliefs, Sufis maintain that all creatures - human
and animal - are equal and that music and dance is the most direct route
to Allah.

"Sufis have the right path to Almighty God and the Taleban's version of
Islam wasn't real Islam. It was a corruption, an evil hypocrisy. They
were terrorists and that is unacceptable in our religion.

"Now the sect is recovering its place in Afghanistan and its hundreds of
thousands of followers are once more emerging from the shadows."
Its mystical beliefs are undergoing a renaissance from a chapter of
oppression to one of the country's most powerful movements.

And this is demonstrates the importance of tolerance in finding the way
forward for a peaceful Afghanistan.

Only then, when the nation's people are free to live as their needs tell
them, will 23 years of trauma and battle belong to the past.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 38 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Dec 12, 2001 (18:56) * 140 lines 
An Iranian American From New Jersey *8-/

Beyond imagination
Words fail to capture the despair

November 30, 2001
The Iranian

Email from Farnaz Fassihi to her friends. Fassihi is in Afghanistan
reporting for the New Jersey Star Ledger.

Our first impression upon leaving the Iranian border of Dogharoun and
entering Afghanistan was that we had passed through the gates of Time.The
road to Herat is non-existant and the phrase "in the middle of no where" was
invented for this passage.

For four hours the three-car convoy carrying us and a group of other foreign
journalists drove through a bumpy, rocky and dusty field where other cars
had paved a make-shift road. At times the cloud of dust was so intense that
we could not see even 10 feet ahead of us.

On our way, we passed villages made of mud huts. Its locals were sitting
aimlessly around. There is no electricity and a water well is miles away. It
is not possible to articulate or even write a story that will do justice to
the misery here. Words and images fail to capture the intensity and the
despair. It's beyond what any one of us reporters ever imagined.

Along side the road were dozens of little children, some as young as four
and five, who waved at the cars carrying foreigners and begged for food.
They cried and pleaded for help. They didn't have shoes. They did't have
warm clothes. Along the same road were also many crippled, arm-less and leg-
less men begging for just the same and shouting at our cars to stop.

Then as we thought we've seen the worst, we passed by Maslakh. The world's
largest refugee camp with 200,000 displaced people awaiting help. The lucky
ones are sheltered in mud houses and tents set up by the UNHCR. But there
were at least a thousand people who had neither. They had simply camped on
the bare ground.

Today, a five-year-old girl died in front of the AP reporter who was
visiting the camp. The Red Cross says every morning they find dead bodies of
people who did not make it through the deadly cold night. Many are dying
from hunger because relief efforts have not fully been resumed yet.

Alas, we arrived in Herat and the city is slowly coming to life. It's
uplifting to see how happy people are at the downfall of the Taliban and how
quickly they are trying to resume to normalcy. Today, Herat held the first
ever election in Afghanistan in 30 years and it was a nice thing to see.

However, every time we step outside endless little faces gather around us
and ask for help. Women cling to us and beg for us to take down their names
in case aid was on the way. They are still clad in burqas but they walk
around alone, shop and go about their daily routines.The men are either
clean-shaved or have trimmed beards. There's been a line in front of the
barber shop around the corner every day.

As for us, when you see how desperate people are living, you are ashamed to
complain about the lack of luxury. Our hotel is okay. It's safe. We have two
armed guards at the door and a curfew at 8 p.m. when we are not allowed to
leave this place. There is only electricity a few hours in the evening.

At night it gets very cold. There are small oil heaters but they don't do
much. No warm water to speak of and well, it's not exactly clean here
either. We are already sick and on anti-biotic medication despite not eating
nor drinking anything. I've brought canned food from Iran and the hotel has
bottled water and fresh bread.

Despite all this, I'm glad to be here. Before coming I was excited about the
assignment , adventure, my career and bullshit like that. After two days
here and this endless visible misery the only reason I can think of for
being here is to tell stories that hopefully will help these people.

God help us.

- Farnaz

Inshallah we will make it alive
Flying from Herat to Kabul

December 10, 2001
The Iranian

Email from Farnaz Fassihi to her friends. Fassihi is in Afghanistan
reporting for the New Jersey Star Ledger.

I'm in Kabul.

How I got here is a tale in itself. In what sounded like an adventure and
felt like ultimate lunacy once we were there, me, Jon and two other
journalists who are now our inseparable friends, boarded the only existing
aircraft in Afghanistan on its first flight in the past two months from
Herat to Kabul Thursday.

It was all about "Inshallahs" and "Salavats" from beginning to end. The
aircraft was a small 25 passenger Russian plane with two small engines.
Aryana Airlines. It was old and rundown and it had just been repaired. The
crew made a special flight from Kabul to Herat to come and check out a
Boeing jet at an air base near Herat to see if they can get the jet going.
They couldn't.

We were advised in less than 24 hours that we can fly on Aryana's flight to
Kabul. We were told to pack and run to the airport in 30 minuets, before the
flight. The email from my editor read: "Go to Kabul. But, do you really
really want to be on Afghanistan's inaugural flight?" We thought how bad can
it be?

We get to the airport and there are blown apart burnt and bombed pieces of
airplanes scattered all around us. In the middle of the runway was a huge
black circle, the mark where a bomb had fallen and there were pieces of it
laying around.

We hand carried our bags, which were not checked, to the aircraft and
someone tossed them up. We climbed on four rickety stairs into the plane,
which looked like a rundown teen-age clubhouse. There was no radar. There
are no air traffic control towers in this country any more. The pilot told
us he was relying on complete visibility to fly over the mountains and
navigate the plane. "Inshallah we will make it to Kabul alive," he said.

We sat in our broken seats for two hours before finally someone said "Get
out. There is a delay." Why? There was no electrical power on the plane and
they wheeled a giant generator to jump start the plane. At that point I was
ready to abandon ship. But I couldn't. We were at the point of no return and
my three-male traveling companions reminded me this is what covering a war
was all about. I took two Dramamines and shut my mouth.

The few Afghan passengers who were going with us spread a prayer rug on the
runway and started praying. Finally the engine gave a few sighs and the
pilot signaled for us to jump on.

The flight was rather smooth because it was a clear day but every time I
remembered I was in the skies of Afghanistan, over snowy mountains on a 50-
year-old damaged plane with no radar and electricity. panic set in. We had a
very rough landing on the taxi runway of Kabul airport. A U.S. hawk missile
is sitting unexploded in the middle of the main runway.

We got out and said to ourselves, you can't make this shit up.


 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 39 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Thu, Dec 13, 2001 (20:22) * 53 lines 

PUL-I-KHUMRI, Afghanistan, Dec. 12 — This northern Afghan town erupted
in violence today as two anti- Taliban factions clashed, amid reports
— later denied by the Pentagon — that American warplanes had intervened
and bombed both sides.

Two Northern Alliance generals said the fighting began when troops
loyal to Sayed Jaffar, the former governor of Baghlan Province,
attacked the Northern Alliance soldiers stationed in Pul-i-Khumri, a
town just south of Kunduz.

The issue was turf, they said. Sayed Jaffar had left Afghanistan in
recent years, but returned this fall and wanted to govern again. He was
angry, they said, that the Northern Alliance soldiers from the
Panjshir Valley, primarily ethnic Tajiks, were in control of the

General Atiqullah Baryalai, deputy defense minister for the Northern
Alliance, said that Sayed Jaffar was supported by American aircraft,
and that one armored vehicle was destroyed and 20 Northern Alliance
soldiers were killed or wounded.

"The Americans bombed us," he said. "It was a very bad mistake. I
called them and asked them to stop, and they said they were sorry but
they kept bombing."

The chief spokesman for the United States Central Command denied that
American warplanes had bombed Northern Alliance positions...

If American planes did, indeed, bomb Northern Alliance units, it would
not be the first time in the war. Two weeks ago, when the city of
Kunduz fell, an American plane attacked a Northern Alliance position in
a historic mud fortress inside the city, destroying seven trucks and
killing several soldiers. Tajik soldiers blamed that attack on a rival
warlord, saying he had called for the air strike on them because he was
angry that he did not take the fortress first.

Full story at:

David Kline (dkline) Thu Dec 13 '01 (09:26) 12 lines

"Of all the shocks of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, those felt most
strongly in the Bay Area have been ideological."

The above is from yesterday's Rob Morse column in the SZan Francisco
Chronicle. It seems appropos of some things we've been discussing.

Anyone interested can find the article at:

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 40 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Tue, Dec 25, 2001 (11:00) * 6 lines 
"The Taliban did not spring directly from hell. They sprang from
Afghan culture strained through hell. They had roots and antecedents in
Afghan culture .. "

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 41 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Dec 30, 2001 (01:54) * 20 lines 
Here's something off the wall:

New Afghan Justice Minsister, Soft on Crime?

"There will be some changes from the time of the Taliban," he said.
"For example, the Taliban used to hang the victim's body in public for
four days. We will only hang the body for a short time, say 15

Kabul's sports stadium, where the Taliban used to carry out public
executions and amputations every Friday, would no longer be used.

"The stadium is for sports. We will find a new place for public
executions," he said.

Adulterers, both male and female, would still be stoned to death,
Judge Zarif said, "but we will use only small stones".

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 42 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Jan  2, 2002 (13:29) * 36 lines 
David Kline (dkline) Wed Jan 2 '02 (09:22) 33 lines

Is anyone here other than me getting a bit concerned about how QUIET the
new government of Hamid Karzai has been in the last 2 weeks?

I mean, this is no time for passivity and being reactive. Where are the
bold new initiatives and programs?

Easy for me to say, I realize, but I think he ought to be announcing a
whole bunch of new programs -- even if for lack of money and organization
they can't all be implemented now. The country needs a vision, & hope.

What sorts of nw programs?

1) "Widows & Orphans" Welfare Program -- the first welfare payment system
in Afghan history. Shouldn't be hard to get international sponsors.

2) "Afghan Marshalls" Program -- a heavily-armed roaming security force to
guarantee safe and secure travel on the highways and byways.

3) "Malalai Protection Service" -- named after Afghanistan's legendary
female freedom fighter, a gov't program to protect women from abuse and
teach them about their rights & responsibilites in the new Afghanistan.

4) "Little Muj Schoolhouse" -- a massive free public education program
funded by foreign sponsors and modeled on the US Head Start program.

5) "Small Town Jirga" Program -- government omnobudsmen to listen to the
grievances of the people in a program of town hall democracy.

Like I said, I know it's easy for me to say all the above. But I'm abit
worried that the new government is getting bogged down in details just
tryoing to find offices and phones for themselves and forgetting the fact
that drift and inertia feed insecurity and factionalism. Bold new
initiativews must be announced, even if they're largely only on paper.

 Topic 50 of 63 [travel]: Afghanistan
 Response 43 of 43: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Jan  9, 2002 (08:14) * 83 lines 
You thought it was hard to sit through "War and Peace"

Afghan blockbuster: 9 hours of bloodshed, tears


ABUL: Hundreds of Afghans crammed into a draughty theatre in the capital's
Khairkhana district this week for a cinematic experience that would test the
stamina of even the most ardent movie-goer.

They came to see Resistance, a nine-hour, three-part film on the history of
the Northern Alliance's struggle against the Taliban.

They cheered for the heroes, booed at the villains, gasped at the gory
details of death and bloodshed and wept as families were united on the
silver screen.
Afghanistan's film industry has never come close to matching the production-
line output of India or Pakistan or even the more modest art-house offerings
from neighbouring Iran.

But what remains of the film industry hopes Resistance will be the first
step towards revitalising a medium that was clumsily state-controlled during
the decade-long Soviet occupation that ended in 1989 and then completely
crushed by the Taliban who deemed it un-Islamic.


"Basically we are starting from scratch again." Moghaven At, a producer,
said in an interview on Monday.

"Everything has been destroyed, our archives are gone, our equipment is
destroyed or broken even our expertise has been lost."

Speaking at the near-deserted Afghan Film Studios set, Moghaven said anyone
involved in the film industry either fled when the Taliban seized Kabul in
1996 or simply washed their hands of anything to do with the business.
The Taliban descended on the studio in an orchestrated frenzy after they
seized the capital in 1996.

Huge piles of burnt film are still scattered in a warehouse, lit eerily by
hundreds of bullet-holes that puncture the corrugated iron roof, letting in
the sunlight.

Mohammad Afzal Barialai, a film editor, said the Taliban spent more than two
weeks methodically destroying an irreplaceable archive of film and music.
"It was like watching monsters destroying your house and your family," he
said. "I have been working in this studio for 30 years and all of my work -
features, documentaries and news pieces, all of it - has been destroyed.
Part of me died also."

Actually some material did escape. Barialai risked death by hiding nine
canisters of the earliest film ever shot in Afghanistan. Some of his
colleagues did the same, and these fragments of history are now being dusted
off to see if they survived their enforced cultural hibernation.


Many of the filmmakers fled the country after the Taliban took power, or
escaped to try to practice their craft in territory controlled by the
opposition Northern Alliance.

"We didn't have much equipment, but the (Northern Alliance) government had a
small department of cultural and historical affairs and we operated from
that," said Moghaven At.

"We filmed the resistance from the moment we left Kabul."

Indeed, some of the most dramatic footage of Resistance is the evacuation of
the capital almost overnight by nearly 500,000 people led by Ahmad Shah
Masood, the commander assassinated two days before the September 11 attacks
brought about the beginning of the end of the Taliban.

The audience hissed sympathetically at the sight of elderly men and women
hobbling barefoot from their homes. They cheered triumphantly at a sequence
showing women pelting the corpses of dead Taliban fighters with stones.

"It is a very good film. Every Afghan must see it," said Mohammad Wazir,
emerging blinking from the marathon session.

Moghaven At hopes the Afghan film industry can rise from the ashes left by
the Taliban's fiery destruction.

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