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A few days ago, a news report by the BBC caught my eye. It said the Red Cross reported some 800,000 people as disabled by the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It struck me as odd, since I didn’t think Afghanistan was such a large country. So I saved the link to check up and found time today.

The previous post is the result of that. In brief, it states Afghanistan’s population – 34,385,068 as of latest figures. That would mean that about 1 in every 43 people is disabled by the war or 2.3% of the entire Afghan population. Seeing as how the disabilities wouldn’t be uniform, it means that areas with greater conflict have even more disabled people than this.

It seemed unbelievable, so I asked for help from other journalists to confirm the Red Cross number. Got about ten replies. All of them confirmed it. The Red Cross doesn’t fake such information. It is correct.

It is amazing that no one has thought of the implications of this. Either from a humanitarian perspective, or even strategic. How does NATO expect Afghanistan to defend itself after their exit with such large numbers of disabled people – a majority of whom, I assume would be men? And this is without the illnesses, deaths and what nots completing the picture.

A few days back, I read a report in USAToday, which spoke of IED attacks in Afghanistan setting a record. There were 9,304 “IED Events” in 2009, 15,225 in 2010 and 16,554 in 2011. “IED Events” is the number of Improvised Explosive Devices cleared or detonated, not a social event. Kind of like the “Nuclear Park” at Jaitapur. We have ways of making things sound acceptable.

Astonishingly, that very same report quoted:

“If insurgencies are about winning the support — or at least the acquiescence — of the local population, this is a concerning trend for the Taliban,” said Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan at the RAND Corp., a think tank.

Yeah, right. Like Nadeem F. Paracha had once famously described Imran Khan stopping missiles with his bare chest.

In other words, no matter what happens, people supposedly professionals in thinking are able to see only advantages in it. No wonder the US is winning this war and is all set to exit Afghanistan after the transfer of power as a few other reports from around the same time claim.

In still other news, the Taliban is forcibly collecting Zakat, or tax from residents of northern Jawzjan province. Yeah, they are really desperate.

In other words, this war is in the exact same limbo and circular propaganda in media that it has been for a decade. Unnoticed, the toll on the population is growing. The people already disabled aren’t going to get better. The more this war continues, the more their numbers will rise.

Frankly, this war was lost the day US partnered with Pakistan [READ] and got to micro-managing Afghanistan. They lack understanding of the culture, or any sense of engagement beyond aggression. Three countries at least are paying a massive price. US, Pakistan and Afghanistan itself. Other NATO countries are suffering losses too.

France recently wanted and Nicolas Sarkozy declared out after French soldiers were attacked and killed by Afghan soldiers over some disrespect of the dead bodies of the Taliban by American soldiers Urinating on the dead bodies, to be specific. No, America simply doesn’t understand alien cultures – or try to – or find it necessary to other than psyops. Hillary Clinton not only didn’t see this as any indication that France would pull out, she knew better that they didn’t mean it, and so it was. China, Iran and India are going to have a big mess on their hands once this farce ends, because the stubborn refusal to look at reality has meant this story has devolved to chaos and the Pakistan borders in particular leak terrorism like a sieve and there is going to be an unemployment problem like after the Soviet jihad, and these are the countries that will win that harvest – India in particular.

And the more reality is ignored, the worse the chaos will be. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity. Insanity is harmless if it is limited to the insane, but this macabre dance has too many players, too many lives devastated.

Pakistan in particular is at the verge of devastation and if Pakistan collapses, even winning in Afghanistan will not matter, because the Frankenstein’s monster will consume the entire region, if not the world. While Pakistan’s problems are largely of its own creation, and many of Afghanistan’s problems too, simply calling every problem a nail because you have a hammer is not working.

Like I have pointed out earlier too – when Pakistan’s trolls stop hounding you on the internet with bizarre versions of history, that is a disillusionment that is shaking their very foundations of identity among civilians. And, as the US likes to remind us, Pakistan is a nuclear power, so this collapse is an epic disaster waiting to happen.

A friend who knows such things had once likened terrorists to bed bugs. It is very difficult to get rid of an infestation unless you know exactly what you are doing, you have a plan and you stick with it or you just end up making it worse. I can’t think of a better metaphor for this parody of a war where there have been so many strategies and contradictions – including US eroding its own values and laws – that no one at all knows what exactly is happening and everyone except the Taliban have immobilized themselves through paradoxes of their own creation.

A journalist from Afghanistan had once tweeted – why are we spending so much to fight the guy with the sandals and AK-47? Good question, if anyone paused to think of it. And I think he’s been asking that for a long time.

In the meanwhile, in this maze of strategies, paradoxes, claims, realities, propaganda… there are people who are getting devastated, who rarely make news. News from Afghanistan is no longer about Afghans – hasn’t been for a long time.

There is a desperate need to find creative solutions. To listen to the Afghans instead of telling them. To give them what they need to fight rather than training them to alien standards from scratch. To give them the ownership of their war to do what they will, and support them solidly rather than employ and train them to become inferior shadows of the West and at prices the tax payer back home increasingly can’t afford.

If Obama is listening, he should get someone following what Afghan commentators are saying, what they are suggesting and mine ideas. This Emperor hasn’t had worn clothes for a long time.

As news of Rabbani being killed in Afghanistan spreads like wild fire, there is a looming unease that things in Afghanistan are not as well as we pretend they are. We look on it as a regional matter rather than something relevant to us.

And yet, it ought to matter to us more than it does.

I would like to begin with saying that we have a rather lax approach to security overall. After 9/11 it didn't take us too long to cotton on to the fact that the new villain worldwide - terrorism is a way what we used to call militancy could be described. Since then, we have been talking about how we have been victims of terrorism orienting from Pakistan for far longer than the US. As the regional situation deteriorates steadily, and all goodwill is destroyed in power games, people perhaps now comprehend that what we had been shouting to the world for a long time was not reciprocal propaganda between sibling nations, and that they may have made a big mistake by investing so deeply in Pakistan.

But there has been little we have done to take advantage of the regional dynamics to resolve or assert necessary issues. We have sat and wrung our hands about the terrorism we face from Pakistan, but we have done nothing to fix that either. In the meanwhile, United States of Abhimanyu and the Afghani Chakravyuha goes on merrily. The Taliban have nothing to lose, and the foreign troops are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Pakistan is increasingly showing bolder stakes in forcing the US out, while both countries maintain a superficial pretense of civility, which is cracking.

While it is all well and good to talk about planned withdrawals of forces, increasingly vicious attacks bring up the question of whether it will be a withdrawal or escape - if at all it is possible. I imagine, it will not be easy to exit either - not with the ground situation so volatile. It wouldn't be the first time the Taliban uses brutality to take over the country, particularly if Pakistan starts believing that Afghanistan might distract the Taliban from Pakistan.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. Increasing volatility in the region makes India's security more difficult too, as Pakistan gets increasingly uncontrollable, and we have not consolidated any real stake in Afghanistan in spite of our massive aid. It may be argued that the Afghan government hasn't been able to do it either, but that is besides the point.

If the Taliban continue to strike back at the NATO forces with increasing viciousness, there is going to be a point where the NATO presence gets rendered irrelevant for Indian purposes - present or not.

Forcing NATO back in the AfPak theatre will also translate into increased confidence against India. In other words, that is one place we don't want to be in - because we are nuclear powers. And it isn't too far away. As militants in Kashmir are at an all time low, the point where the plan must be abandoned completely or drastically invested in comes close.

Another factors are China and Iran. China wants to drive through PoK to get at their port. They most certainly don't want us messing that game. Also, strategically, we are pretty much the only thing Pakistan wants from China. Iran once used to be a stronger ally than it currently is. We are letting that lapse.

So where am I going with all this?

I am saying that India should have been acting to secure its interests conclusively for a long time, and the need is getting urgent. Beyond a certain point, it will cease to matter to the result.

An article in Pragati (will search for link and insert later) argues that India should send troops to Afghanistan to aid the NATO effort. I think it is a bad idea. India doesn't have the physical distance from the theater of war like the rest of the countries, and India is not a default target of the bad guys either. Sending troops to Afghanistan is a guarantee to make them special targets as well as trigger terror attacks in the country. Worse, our anti-terror apparatus isn't so strong that we can take the risk of not preventing them. All in all, it will enrage the terrorists, and our civilians will be right there to take the brunt of the rage too.

However, the thought behind the idea of sending troops to Afghanistan is vital. The action may not be the best solution, but there is no doubt that we need to explore ways to make our stake in th region more secure - both for our sakes as well as lending security to the overall situation.

If we are able to open a second, less attacked aspect in this situation (using our soft power), it may create an opening for us to achieve our objectives easier as well as provide troops in Afghanistan a welcome breather, which is also in favor of our objectives.

I think it is definitely important that we integrate our soft power into strategic planning and use it far more proactively than we currently do. The less our actions look like military intervention the better, but it is definitely important to be a player in the game - not just as we are, by contributing, but by leveraging ability to influence happenings.

 

PS: These are more random thoughts on the dynamics from emerging news than hard factual data.

2

There are a lot of people comparing Anna with the Taliban, and I think it is a product of our education system, where theory is taught as a separate thing from life. People aren't used to seeing ideas in action. The higher educated, the worse it gets. Anyway, here are some arguments and what I think of them.

anna come on, a modern taliban who flog people for drinking, whats the difference between approach of anna hazare and taliban??

flogging people is non violent? news? flogging them with hands tied , and mostly "bahi" used to do it by him self, woah

for your information talibans controll drugs and sexual harassment in same manner, at that time " o my god its brutality"

be on topic mam, difference between anna and taliban? power hungry he is and he used his power in shape of brutality

etc... by Munnazir

To begin with, I think it is ridiculous to compare Anna Hazare with the Taliban because he is authoritarian. He isn't running an illegal government, making terrorist attacks, enslaving women, imposing religion, beheading people at will, etc. I mean, the differences are so many, that I think the only similarity is Anna Hazare's punishment for drinking and a dubious similarity in massive popular support. Possibly the strength of this protest could be seen as challenging government authority.

The debate continued with some people engaging with me on the subject of Democracy, liberty, and personal freedoms. Here are some quotes from primary_red

Because, ma'am, a basic understanding of the concept of liberty that seems to elude Anna supporters leads them to this position

Which is why I'mm a teetotaler. But, drinking is legal in India & Anna can go to hell if he thinks he can impose his views on anyone

The interesting things at this point are that the Janlokpal movement has no agenda on alcohol or alcoholism. Nor is this something Anna is imposing on the country. In our country, the government just increased the minimum age for drinking by seven years. If you marry before 25, you can't drink at your wedding. This is democratic. But Anna getting majority support in the village to ban drinking is not. Do you think the government took a vote on raising the drinking age, and do you know if they would have got the votes to pull it off if they did? Gujarat can be a dry state and it is democratic, but Ralegaon Siddhi can't. The double standards are enough to make your head spin. Ralegaon Siddhi is a real village surrounded by real India. If you measure it by some textbook ideals based on your beliefs about "best", it is unrealistic to say the least.

We have smoking banned in public places - even outdoor public places, where there is no known risk from passive smoking in an open area. In the process, smokers must smoke indoors and expose their families to concentrated passive smoke which is greater risk? And what does this achieve? Can this be enforced? All it does is provide periodic bribing opportunities to cops. How many people do you know got arrested for smoking on the street out of how many people you know smoke? What is this joke of a law? But it is there. It is passed. I makes criminals out of a significant percentage of the population. This is not authoritarian?

Fact is, India is authoritarian by heritage. We were ruled by kings, our attitudes, culture, beliefs, everything comes from a belief in hierarchies. Be it touching the feet of elders or telling your kids to not go out to play. Is it liberal? No. So what do we do? Do we create solutions in the reality we have, or create solutions for an ideal democracy that doesn't exist?

Sorry, ma'am. Inexplicably, you are very comfortable with sacrificing freedoms of others. You are free to abstain. Leave us alone

Also by primary_red

I have written about my experiences with what I call passive alcoholism - where my husband was an alcoholic. It is worth a read to grasp one point. While drinking is personal freedom, an alcoholic abuser is a social menace. Personal freedom doesn't include the freedom to let kids starve or beat up wives. I see absolutely nothing wrong with a social intervention to prevent or punish alcoholics for abusing their families. In fact, I think it is an important and much needed step on domestic abuse.

A village panchayat is the government of the village and arbitrates as it sees fit in the running of the village. While I am no fan of seeing people beaten, how do you punish a drunk? Reasoning doesn't work with them, they have no money you can fine them and anyway, it will be the family who suffers for money not the drunk, there are no jails and it is a fairly common problem. I don't agree with people being beaten, but I can see how it can look like a workable solution for village folks.

It is quite astonishing that people read about the transformation of Ralegan Siddhi and this is what they find important. Protecting the rights of abusers.

No one seems to wonder why the village is protesting with such dedication in support of this person. It the village and its panchayat is in support of a certain action, is it illegal? Is it even authoritarian if the followers are in agreement? Anyone has any records of dissent from that village and how severe it was, if at all it was present?

I don't support punishment for smoking or drinking, most definitely not physical punishment, but I fail to see why I should not take a good idea from a person because his other idea is bad. My liberal beliefs allow an authoritarian his beliefs as long as those lives he touches are not harmed by them. I don't believe in this new brand of extremist liberalism I see these days. This kind of finding one quality and calling it the defining trait of a person is actually extremism. The process of seeing in absolutes. If a person ate pork in America, he should never get a visa to a Muslim country kind of thinking.

The liberals with their purist views based on their books fail to see that ideas in action are a mix of thousands of things happening at the same time. They are dynamic and you can't pick out one idea and make it the sole factor of a choice. This is where intellect needs humility to keep observing the world and keep learning.

It is also a matter of whether we use or discard ideas for their origin, or their value. Whatever the origin, a good idea works and vice versa. It is authoritarian to decree authoritarian behavior as automatically unacceptable, if that makes sense.

5

This is the new instalment in the Afghan life series by Gity Yosufi from Herat in Afghanistan. It brings a look into the difficulties faced by Afghan women in practical, day to day life.

The conditions of Afghans women are very bad, after Talliban time the women could be relive again and took their freedom and right, but these freedoms are limited by their families and their society. Their fathers, brothers and husbands control them and don’t let them to work that they want, they must have their permissions, to go to school to work and to do some work that they want. Most of them are illiterate; if we see the condition of women in other provinces we can clearly see they are like the slaves nothing more. For example in Norestan province there is tribe by the name of Bari.

Baries live in the bottom of the mountains, in Norestan the high class of people live in the top of the mountains and others live in the bottom, the Baries known humble persons, they are Muslim but they don’t know about the Islam, also the Norestanies are Muslim but they don’t let Baries to come in their Mosques because they said they are dirty. They are carpenter and all their houses are wooden.

In this time Norestanies women are like slaves that they buy. By their weak body they dig the ground and do the hard works they do all the work like outside and inside works, form their born until their death they must work and earn money to their husbands, even the marriage is not to become unite or love, it is a dealing , man buy her by his goat, every woman is sell by 100 or more goat , in fact the man invested on her until her death she must earn more than that he buy her. Norestanies women don’t have any right and freedom, the Mulas explained the Islam in the way that they want or have benefit for them.

If we totally see the condition of Afghans women we see most of them are deprived form their rights and freedoms, it is not the definition of women in Islam. Islam gives her rights and her freedoms, but the men don’t want to accept it, they don’t want to be in depended.

Woman is the honesty of God, she is worthy to respected and get knowledge, to work in politic to be social. Woman is mother, sister, and wife but first of all she is human as a human she has right to life and do the work that she wants, she is the part of society and humanity.

It is the order of God for men:

(Speak with your women in worthy).

Herat Afghanistan (Gity Yosufi)

10

Image via Wikipedia

B. Raman has written an outstanding summary of an apparently outstanding debate hosted by Barkha Dutt on the subject of Saffron terrorism.

What I liked was his way of stating the perspectives of both sides in a factual manner, and pointing out some facts about Indian Muslims that often get overlooked as India becomes global and starts adopting a global opinion of Muslims.

I have always thought of the Hindutva fanatics as an extreme danger to society. It isn't really all that different from the Taliban formula - we have been wronged, our religion is in danger, we will be extinct if we don't do something about it. I guess when it comes to any radicalization, there aren't very many choices for original thinking. Fact is, to get people to strike out, they need to feel cornered. That kind of writes the script regardless of religion.

I have written on many forums that we only need to look at the current condition of Pakistan to see the very real damage religious radicalization does. Intolerance isn't logical. Its an attitude. Once established, it colors everything. The other religion, minority sub-sects of the religion, country, ideologies, perceived injustices..... everything becomes threatening and everything needs to be attacked. It simply is not worth it to get into all this. What is the use of creating a victory for our religion if it means that the people will be touchy, discontented and volatile? If the very moral fabric of the society gets hardened and learns to ignore the plight of others?

What is the use of being so superior, if we end up standing all alone?

It should be a lesson to anyone considering religious fundamentalism to see the plight of Pakistan and the reluctance to provide aid in the world. As thousands languish, the righteous kill more, because they have an agenda that will not spare anyone for the 'real truth'.

It may anger Hindu radicals to be compared with the Taliban, but if you think carefully, isn't tit-for-tat all about aping wrong actions to punish another?

Another thing from that article I found important was when he says,

The psychological aspect relates to prompt and effective action to identify and address causes for anger in any community.

I hadn't thought of attentiveness and prompt addressing of grievances as an anti-terrorism initiative. Yet, it so clearly is.

A lot of food for thought today.