Afghanistan: Warnings for the Future

If there is any one theme to emerge from the Afghan blogosphere lately, it is warning about the future.

Sanjar starts things off by noting the slow degradation in Afghan-Western relations:

No doubt that there are numerous foreigners who lets say deserve to be in Afghanistan, in a sense that they are professional, culturally sensitive/receptive and above all respect afghans; but only one devious westerner *only a single one* is enough to be cynical and question them in a categorical term. its up to the rest of good westerners to criticise the conduct of the tricky single or group and do not side with them merely because they are fellow westerner. As a member of a group it’s the duty of the individual to bear some responsibility for the action of his groupmates. This sense of shared responsibility forms the basis of any constructive criticism of the group from within.

He is especially angry at the Western arrogance in writing about Afghanistan from the so-called “Kabul Bubble,” in which Westerners rarely interact with the local population. It forms a neat subcontext to his thoughts on how women's rights have evolved over the past three decades:

Women in Afghanistan were not suddenly plunged into brutal un-freedom when the Taliban came to power in 1996. Nor have they always been subject to repressive rule. In a documentary that is both intimate and broadly political, Meena Nanji offers a view of the past thirty years of Afghanistan's history through the lives of three women…

Via interviews, narration, and written and archival footage, Nanji compellingly argues that the loss of women's rights in Afghanistan is not a simple story that revolves around the Taliban. It is a much larger-and continuing-story of a nation that has suffered through near-constant war and mass displacement over several decades.

Of a similar note, The Rumi—who recently noted First Lady Laura Bush promoting girls’ schools—sees a looming problem in the northern part of the country:

Thousands of families have been forced to leave their homes due to food and drinking water scarcity in Balkh, northern province of Afghanistan. Families ended up in a desert of Sholgara district where started to live in camping in the two side of a tiny river.

Balkh an agricultural province did not received enough rain and snow this year. Local farmers lost their fields and left them without any food in whole summer. Water and food shortages have forced some families to eat grass.

Drought is not the only problem facing northern Afghanistan: Tim Foxely thinks hard about recent press reporting that Germany is to send another 1,000 troops to the country.

To be fair, this may imply a future potential to get involved in combat operations and/or in other parts of Afghanistan, but it doesn't seem a particularly strong statement. The current German parliamentary mandate for no more than 3,500 soldiers expires in October. Interestingly, it appears that at the same time, the German troop ceiling for its separate Operation Enduring Freedom mandate has been reduced from 1,400 down to 800. In terms of pure troop numbers, a cynic might note that not much has actually changed…

On a much more upbeat note: Nasim Fekrat has hosted his second blogging workshop in Bamyan. He writes:

After some theoretical discussions, the rest of the second day was dedicated to practical issues. According to directors, main goal of such workshops is to turn this new phenomenon into a public one so as to ensure that everybody practices the right of free speech with no censorship. Since increasing pressures of Information and Culture Ministry has led to more censorship by e-media and private TV channels, weblog may be a better choice to experience free speech as well as institutionalizing this principle in the Afghan society.

Along with the return of Alex Strick van Linschoten—fresh from travels to Beirut and Mogadishu—this bodes well for the future of Afghan voices online.

1 comment

  • US and NATO forces have distributed hundreds of thousands of solar/dynamo am/fm/sw radios throughout Afghanistan since before the invasion. These solar/dynamos charge only the internal hard-wired battery inside the case. They could charge AA batteries in the battery bay for other devices – an LED light, a cell phone, a walkie-talkie… – with a simple modification.

    Here’s a short video from some military folks (the cheesy James Bond soundtrack gives that away) about how to do this battery charging modification:

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