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The Great Game Reconstructed
By: Abdul-Qayum Mohmand, Ph.D.
Regional Studies

The Journal of Regional Studies
Center of Afghanistan
Winter 2014, No. 32, Pp. 11-55

SECURITY AND PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN
BEFORE AND AFTER 2014
By: Abdul-Qayum Mohmand, Ph.D.
Some Thoughts on Islamic Economics
Professor M. Siddieq Noorzoy
RELOCATE UNITED NATIONS TO JERUSALEM TO HARMONIZE CIVILIZATIONS
By: Dr. Rahmat Rabi Zirakyar
The Nature of Statistical Data About The Afghan Economy and Their Problems
THE PROSPECTS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN AFGHANISTAN

Today's News

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Sabawoon News Of the Day
Afghanistan suicide bomb 'kills 33' near former CIA base  
Source: BBC By: Lynne O'Donnell  

A suicide car bomb has killed at least 33 people, mostly women and children, near a military base in Afghanistan, officials say.
The bomber detonated explosives at a checkpoint near Camp Chapman, formerly used by the CIA, in eastern Khost province on Sunday.
Camp Chapman was the site of one of the worst attacks on the agency in 2009 when a bomber killed seven officials.
No US or coalition soldiers were killed in this latest attack.
The base now houses both Afghan and foreign troops, including US soldiers.
A statement from Khost's provincial governor said that 27 civilians and six security personnel were killed.
Youqib Khan, the deputy police chief, told the Associated Press news agency that Sunday's blast hit a checkpoint manned by members of an Afghan unit that guards Camp Chapman.
Officials said those killed were civilians in cars waiting to clear the checkpoint at the time of the blast.
No group has said it carried out the blast, although the Taliban has often targeted troops and launched a fresh offensive in late April.
Khost borders Pakistan and is one of Afghanistan's most volatile provinces.


CAR BOMBING KILLS AT LEAST 26 CIVILIANS NEAR AFGHAN BASE
Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS By: RAHIM FAIEZ  

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A suicide car bombing near a military base in eastern Afghanistan that once hosted CIA employees killed at least 26 people Sunday, local officials said, the latest insurgent attack after foreign forces ended their combat mission there.

The bombing hit a checkpoint manned by members of the Khost Provincial Force, an Afghan unit that guards Camp Chapman, said Youqib Khan, the deputy police chief in Khost province. It wasn't immediately clear whether the bomber was trying to get onto the base or what led to his attack, Khan said. A U.S. defense official said Chapman is an Afghan base with some American special operations forces there.

A local hospital received the bodies of at least 26 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children including eight members of a single family, said Dr. Hedayatullah Hamedi, the province's health director. He said the blast wounded nine civilians.

"The explosion was so loud and strong that almost all of the city of Khost was shaken by the blast," provincial police chief Gen. Faizullah Ghyrat said.

A statement issued by the Khost provincial governor's office offered different casualty numbers, saying that 33 people were killed - 27 civilians, including 12 children, and six members of the Afghan security forces. Another 12 members of the Afghan security forces were injured, according to the statement. The discrepancy in the casualty numbers could not immediately be reconciled.

The suicide bomber carried out his attack when many civilian vehicles were waiting to pass by on a main road, said an Afghan police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the attack. He said the civilians killed and wounded in the attack were in vehicles waiting for their turn to pass.

Foreign and Afghan forces blocked journalists and police from accessing the site after the blast. Pentagon officials referred comment to NATO authorities in Afghanistan. In a statement, NATO said "no U.S. or coalition personnel were injured as a result of the attack," without elaborating.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast in the city of Khost, near Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan. Since U.S. and NATO troops ended their combat mission at the end of last year, local troops have been taking the brunt of attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Camp Chapman, named after the first U.S. soldier killed in combat in the war in Afghanistan, sits near Forward Operating Base Salerno, a large Soviet-built airfield that was targeted by a Taliban truck bombing in June 2012.

Camp Chapman was the site where seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed in a Pakistani Taliban suicide bombing in December 2009. Six more agency personnel were wounded in what was considered the most lethal attack for the CIA since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001 and possibly even since the 1983 embassy bombing in Beirut. It's not clear whether the CIA still operates out of Camp Chapman.

Meanwhile Sunday, Afghan security officials said a pair of roadside bombings killed at least 12 civilians in the country's east and north. The Taliban frequently uses roadside bombs and suicide attacks to target Afghan army or police forces across the country.


Karzai intends to bring down President Ghani’s government
Source: KHAAMA PRESS By:    

The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai intends to bring down the National Unity Government led by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
A senior Western diplomat quoted in report by Guardian said Karzai has been trying for months to undercut Ghani’s government, with the intention of bringing it down.
The diplomat whose identity was not disclosed in the report further added that an interim government would likely take over should Karzai succeeds to bring down President Ghani’s government.
Karzai would step forward to fill the vacuum as the self-styled father of the nation, the diplomat said, adding that President Ghani is aware of Karzai’s intentions but is keen to avoid an open clash he might not win and tolerated the former president’s maneuvers to a certain extent in the past.
“In the political game, Karzai is leagues ahead of almost everyone else here. Frankly, he is leagues ahead of us too. It just took us a while to figure it out,” the source added.
In the meantime, the Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman denied the former president is building opposition and said “Meeting tribal leaders and elders from around the country is nothing new for Mr Karzai. This is how it used to be during the last 14 years.”
Faizi further added “It is the Afghan political culture and also his personal style. The strong bond between President Karzai and Afghan elders and leaders from all around the country can not be ignored by either side.”
According to Guardian, Karzai’s influence and interventions are increasingly seen as a threat to Afghanistan’s political stability by curtailing the erratic behaviour that so irritated his international partners during his near-decade long rule, casting himself as a genial statesman and supposed unifier of the country.
The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Afghan and Pakistani spy agencies led to a conflict between Ghani and Karzai which gave a platform to the former president to launch an attack on Ghani that chimed with public opinion, the paper said, adding that many Afghans saw the deal as selling out to a sworn enemy and as a result Karzai come to be seen by many as a protector of national sovereignty.
Karzai has also been busy travelling to countries uncomfortable with closer Afghan-Pakistani cooperation such as India, China and Russia, in a bid to reinforce this image.
In the meantime, a political analyst Haroon Mir told the Guardian that the infighting could have a wider repercussions, pointing out that Ghani needs wide political support to begin peace talks with the Taliban.
“It’s not good at this time to lose political support or create opportunities for political opposition to emerge,” he added.
Karzai “is the only known political leader of Afghanistan”, Mir said, adding that “He has all the ingredients to be a national leader – many resources, political support, his own network of influential people. If there is a crisis, he will emerge as the only national leader.”


‘Al-Qaeda was terrorism version 1, ISIS is version 6’ – Afghan President Ghani to RT
Source: RT By:    

Islamic State cannot be dismissed as a “medieval” cult, and the world is encouraging its growth by allowing more failed states to emerge, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani told RT.

“If Al-Qaeda was terrorism version one, Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIS] is terrorism version six,” Ghani told Oksana Boiko in an exclusive interview on RT’s Worlds Apart program.

READ MORE: Cr-Isis of state? Ft. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan

Ghani, previously a professor of anthropology in some of the world’s top universities, who took over from Hamid Karzai after winning last year’s presidential poll, warns against caricaturing the radical Islamists as simple-minded throwbacks.

“I don't attribute medieval-ness to anybody. We're contemporaries. There's no one who is medieval. Anyone who lives in the 21st century is a product of the 21st century. It's patronizing to call others medieval,” says the 66-year-old.

“The organizational form is totally modern. The means of communication deployed, the networking, the recruitment through the internet. So the morphology involved is very rapid – if you look into network theory, it shows that Daesh bypassed about four to five stages of network formation in a very short period. That means that innovation within the psychological system is very rapid.”

Ghani warns that “if you are going to contain it, we need to be equally fast, creative and coordinated.” Instead, from North Africa and all the way to Afghanistan lies a plethora of countries in various degrees of distress.

“What is characteristic now is that the state collapse has become a pattern. It's not an isolated event. So previously, if you had a weak link, now you have a broken chain,” says Ghani, who has written a book-length study of failed states.

“The level of territorial conquest Daesh has managed to achieve is unprecedented. It has managed to do, in a period of collapsed time, what took Al-Qaeda or other organizations years, or at times decade of planning. So, that speaks both of its own abilities, but also an enabling environment – the collapse of the Syrian state on the one hand, and the incompetence of the Iraqi on the other.”

With growing a impact from transnational forces, both ideological, such as militant Islam, and financial – as capitalism spreads, and wealthy and powerful individuals in one country sponsor terrorism in another – the entire national state system is under pressure.

“We now do not have rules of the game in conduct between states. And we do not have an agreement as to how to reconstitute the state system as a viable way, or to coordinate our responses at the national level, the regional level, and the global level.”

But after decades of failed interventions, including those in his own country, which has been at the mercy of Soviet and US troops, as well as international terrorist organizations and Pakistani influence, Ghani cautioned against using individual countries to fight global ideological battles.

“The lesson is, anyone who plays with these things, they should know they're playing with fire, their hand is going to be burned. And looking at countries as battlefields is not only morally wrong, it is politically suicidal. It will blow back, and the hand that feeds will be bitten.”

Until a new international consensus emerges, Ghani believes radical groups such as Islamic State will spread among the lawlessness, and once they do, no peaceful means can stop them, meaning that thousands more lives are yet to be lost.


Fallout from Reagan’s Afghan War
Source: Consortiumnews By:    

In the 1980s, President Reagan funded and armed Islamic fundamentalists to defeat a Soviet-backed secular regime in Afghanistan. Now, one of those ex-U.S. clients is throwing his support behind the brutal Islamic State, a lesson about geopolitical expediency, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

In a blast from the past in Afghanistan, a warlord who became a model for combining ruthless ambition and destructive methods with radical ideology, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has advised his followers to support the so-called Islamic State or ISIS in fighting against the Afghan Taliban.

While some in the West might see this as one more indication of ISIS spreading its tentacles with an ever-widening reach, a better lesson flows from observing that this is another instance of ISIS being invoked by a protagonist in a local conflict with local objectives. Hekmatyar’s game has always been about seeking power in Afghanistan and bashing opponents of his efforts to do so.

A further lesson comes from noting that it is the Taliban that Hekmatyar finds to be either too moderate or too inconvenient for him right now. It probably is not coincidental that this statement by Hekmatyar comes just as the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban have concluded what may be the most promising peace negotiations so far that are aimed at resolution of the long-running conflict in Afghanistan.

All of these players — the government, the Taliban, and Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami — are focused on struggles for power in their own country and not on transnational causes. Afghanistan is a nation in which politics and policy largely rest on ad hoc deals among various local power-holders, which are struck in ways that do not correspond to what might make sense to Westerners in terms of recognizable left-right, radical-moderate, or religious-secular dimensions.

The outcome of the current multidimensional conflict in Afghanistan will depend on such deals. This ought to call into question the wisdom of calls to extend what has already been a 14-year U.S. military operation in the interests of beating back what gets portrayed as an undifferentiated set of bad guys.

Yet another lesson comes from reflecting on Hekmatyar’s four decades as a major player in turmoil in Afghanistan. Although it is not true, as is sometimes alleged, that the United States once aided Osama bin Laden, it is true that a single-minded U.S. focus on defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan and their client regime under Najibullah led the United States to bestow its favors on some seedy characters.

U.S. aid aimed at beating the Soviets was given, through the intermediary of Pakistan, to seven Afghan resistance organizations. Hekmatyar’s group was probably the most radical of these but also, because it was a favorite of the Pakistanis, probably received as much of the U.S. aid as any other.

The attitude within the Reagan administration toward the question of what further consequences would flow from aiding such radicalism was one of “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” The later chapters of the Hekmatyar story involved fierce fighting against the other resistance groups once Najibullah fell, with Hekmatyar’s forces shelling Kabul even as he was supposed to be the prime minister, and later his group making common cause with the Taliban before the most recent falling out.

A moral of this story is: don’t put off thinking about those future bridge-crossings. In focusing on defeating whoever the enemy of the moment may be, worry also about how our intervention in a conflict may be sustaining others who can spell trouble. That’s always been true in Afghanistan and is true in other places as well, such as Syria.


New Afghan Parliament building to be completed in five months
Source: Wadsam By:    

Urban Development Affairs Minister, Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, announced Sunday that the new Afghan Parliament building will be completed within the next five months.

Minister Naderi visited the construction site together with India’s Ambassador to Kabul, Amar Sinha.

The edifice is being built by India as a gift to the Afghan people aspiring to move towards a peaceful democracy.

Costing USD 220mn, the new building consists of 4 blocks- A (House of People), B (Officers), C (Entrance Lobby) and D (Senate Hall).

Block A is the main parliament hall where parliamentary sessions will be held. Block B consists of two halls for general sessions, dining halls and also a library.

Known as the Entrance Hall, Section C will have a dome constructed of stainless steel and glass which will have five halls for parliamentary commissions in the second floor.

Marbles from Chesht-e-Sharif district have been used for the floor works of the new parliament building. A big administration building, a mosque that could house 400 prayers, a modern library, VIP guesthouse and 350 apartments for the lawmakers have also been considered in the new parliament building.

The new building also consists of 20 lifts, 15 stairs and toilets for men and women in 35 locations.

Built on 40.6 hectares of land, the new parliament building is five times bigger than the current parliament building.

Work on the edifice began in 2009 and was expected to be completed in 36 months; however, due to security situation and delay in availability of construction materials the building was not completed in time.

Apart from the Parliament, India has also undertaken the construction work of the Salma dam project in western Herat province.


Saffron Business in Herat
Source: GOV.UK By:    

The Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program (AREDP) provides support to businesses to help boost income and employment opportunities in Afghanistan.

Mahtab Saffron company have benefited from AREDP support. As a result, the business now employs more workers and has seen a high increase in revenues, read the story below.

Mahtab Saffron is a saffron company based in Herat in Western Afghanistan. The business started in 2000 to create direct and indirect job opportunities for rural people and increase productivity, income and profitability of the saffron growing industry in Western Afghanistan.

The business produces saffron and saffron bulbs on its own saffron farms located in various districts of Herat province. It also buys saffron bulb from other individuals and businesses in Herat.

The owner of Mahtab Saffron has received training through AREDP, and has received funds to expand his business through learning new methods, using high-end equipment and access to market, which has increased profitability of his business.

With AREDP support, representatives of Mahtab Saffron were able to attend the technical training and exposure visit which was conducted in Kashmir India on techniques for improved plantation, irrigation, drying, processing, packaging and distribution to the market, wholesalers and retailers.

Such technical training has brought big changes in the business. Before the workers lacked technical knowledge for example how to process the plant from diseases and insects. However, after this training of his workers, the owner of Mahtab Saffron was impressed and inspired to expand his saffron business more widely into other districts of Herat province.

The owner of Mahtab Saffron has also undergone many trainings such as basic accounting, advance accounting, marketing, business management and attended a national exhibition which was conducted by AREDP.

Moreover, the products are sold mostly to domestic markets such as Herat, Kabul, Balkh, Nangarhar and Helmand provinces and abroad to buyers in India, Germany, Scandinavia and the UK. After receiving support from AREDP, Mahtab Saffron is now able to hire 7 permanent and 110 seasonal additional employees during the saffron harvesting season, majority of whom are women.


Questions linger years after soldier guns down 16 in Afghanistan
Source: Tribune By: Howard Altman  

The answers to what might have allowed the worst U.S. war crime of the Afghanistan War to unfold may be found in an investigation conducted by U.S. Central Command.

But the command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, has so far declined to release the results of an Army Regulation 15-6 report, prompting a group of journalism organizations to write a letter last week to Gen. Lloyd Austin III, Centcom’s commander, seeking the immediate release of those documents,

This story starts on the morning of March 11, 2012. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales had been drinking contraband alcohol, snorting Valium from another soldier, and taking steroids, according to a story from Military Times. He then walked away from his remote southern Afghanistan outpost at Camp Belambay, approached nearby villages and slaughtered 16 civilians, including 11 members of one family.

It was this generation’s My Lai moment. Only it wasn’t revealed later by an investigative reporter, as with the My Lai massacre, but on the same day Bales was arrested.

In the years since, through investigations, the court martial, conviction and sentencing to life imprisonment, much has been learned about Bales. He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury. He had financial troubles and endured multiple deployments. His lawyer blamed the Army for sending him back into combat.

Robert Bales exhibited the strains of war experienced by hundreds of thousands of troops who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and many, many more who battled in Vietnam and Korea and around the globe in World War II and in every conflict ever fought.

Yet unlike the vast majority of those troops, Bales took it out on innocent civilians, wiping out men, women and children by shooting and burning them.

More than three years later, no one can really say why.

Not even Bales. When questioned by the judge while entering the guilty plea that spared him a death sentence, he seemed “baffled,” according to the New York Times.

“There’s not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did,” he told the judge.

Bales may not have been able to offer a good reason, but with about 10,000 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan, 3,500 in Iraq and more than 100,000 others spread out around the world, often in harm’s way, we as a society need to do all we can to find the answer that eluded the murderer.

It is for the good of our troops, the populations where they are stationed, and a nation that holds itself to a higher standard.

To help find those answers, news organizations who have covered this story from the start — like the News Tribune of Tacoma, The Seattle Times and NPR’s Seattle affiliate KUOW — filed federal Freedom of Information Act requests for documents that could shed light on this.

The Army turned over the results of the Army Criminal Investigation Command investigations. But all three news organizations, which cover Joint Base Lewis McChord where Bales’ military trial was held, sought the results of the Army Regulation 15-6 investigation.

It was commissioned in this case to determine whether anything could have been done to prevent the massacre. The investigation was conducted by Centcom. And each FOIA request and each subsequent appeal was denied by Centcom.

So last week, Military Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists and Northwestern University’s National Security Journalism Initiative sent a joint letter to Austin, “requesting the immediate declassification of the investigation into Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ killing spree.”

The letter was initially sent to the Army last month, but the Army punted to Centcom because it’s Centcom’s investigation.

Centcom initially rejected The News Tribune’s first request for the Bales 15-6 in January 2014, according to the letter, because among other things, releasing the report could jeopardize ongoing operations, obstruct law enforcement and impair Bales’ right to a fair and impartial trial.

The News Tribune filed an appeal to this denial. A Centcom FOIA officer told the newspaper on June 30 its latest appeal would be denied, citing “an exception that allows the government to withhold information that could influence an ongoing law enforcement investigation,” according to the letter.

However, the letter pointed out that Army Special Operations Command had finished its investigation of three soldiers it punished, while senior leaders from Bales’ battalion and brigade were given promotions and greater responsibilities, “suggesting that the military determined they were not culpable for Bales’ crimes.”

Things have changed since Centcom’s initial denial. And that, the signatories argue, warrants “an immediate reconsideration of CENTCOM’s withholding of the Bales 15-6.”

His sentence was upheld. U.S. forces are no longer stationed at combat outposts near the site of the massacre. And “Bales is past the point when a jury may consider evidence in his case. His fate now rests solely with military appeals,” according to the letter.

Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan at the time of the massacre, commissioned the report just after the massacre. He assured the public the military would do everything it could to learn from Bales’ killings, according to the letter.

“I will be satisfied when I get the report that we have looked closely at the potential contributing factors that might have permitted this event to have unfolded tragically,” Allen told reporters in March 2012, two weeks after the killings, the letter states.

“Bales committed a terrible crime and is serving his sentence,” according to the letter to Austin. “The public and the press still deserve the answers to the questions Allen aired when he announced the 15-6.”

Amy McCullough, president of Military Reporters and Editors, says the signatories hope the report “will shed light on the command climate at the time and whether there was anything leadership could have done to prevent the massacre.”

As Allen pointed out, “there certainly is a risk of retaliation for a crime of this magnitude,” McCullough says. But “enough time has passed and the Army already has released several documents pertaining to the Bales’ case, so I don’t believe this report will incite a renewed threat to service members. This was one of the most, if not the most, heinous crimes committed by an American during the Afghanistan war and the public absolutely has a right to know what the Defense Department is doing to ensure something like this never happens again.”

McCullough says that on July 8, the News Tribune learned the Defense Department’s FOIA office recommended Centcom reopen the paper’s initial file and conduct a new review of the documents.

That same day, Army Maj. Curtis Kellogg, a Centcom spokesman, told me the command “has received the letter from the Military Reporters and Editors Association and Centcom staff is reviewing their request.”

Here’s hoping that not only does the command review the request, but that it turns over the report, which I have since requested as well.

We may never know exactly why Bales became unhinged.

But for all the reasons I mentioned, we certainly need to know, as Gen. Allen said, the potential factors that may have allowed the massacre to take place.

❖ ❖ ❖

The Pentagon announced no new troop deaths in support of ongoing operations last week.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, seven in support of the anti-ISIS campaign Operation Inherent Resolve, and two U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the followup Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.


The Afghan cauldron
Source: Express Tribune By:    

As the days and weeks pass after the departure of foreign forces from Afghanistan, it is ever clearer that the Afghan Taliban, in all of their fractious iterations, are further from being a homogenous body than they ever were — which makes meaningful dialogue with any Taliban group even more fraught with pitfalls than there already are, notwithstanding the positive beginning that seems to have been made in talks between the group and the Afghan government in Pakistan recently. The Afghan Taliban and supporters of the Islamic State (IS) are at odds, and have been battling each other in Nangarhar province with at least 80 dead, some of those, well-known figures. To further muddy the waters, the leader of the Hizb-e-Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has now advised his own supporters to take sides with the IS. It will be remembered that the Afghan Taliban recently issued a warning to the IS, telling it to stay out of Afghanistan. A warning that obviously fell on deaf ears.

The Afghan government is sufficiently concerned about the rise of the IS to have raised a force specifically to fight the group. It seems that Afghanistan is tumbling towards its default position of never-ending conflict between different tribes and groups. They are no longer held together by the unifying ‘glue’ that was made of a resolve to fight the foreign invader. With the foreign invader fast disappearing as a target option, a return to internecine warfare seems inevitable. All sides are heavily armed, duplicitous to fault and willing to change sides if there is a strategic advantage to be gained by doing so. It is in that context that the call for his own fighters to support the IS by Hekmatyar has to be seen. Another layer of confusion lies in the call by Hekmatyar for his own troops to stand with the Taliban, so long as they are fighting communists and the remnants of the group led by Ahmed Shah Masood, who was killed by al Qaeda in 2001. Sectarian issues and Iran are also being stirred into the mix and anybody who imagines that peace will come to Afghanistan any time soon in such an environment is living in a fool’s paradise.


Afghans flock to Kabul Taxi, a satirical Facebook page that spares no one
Source: Washington Post By: Sudarsan Raghavan and Mohammad Sharif  

KABUL — The Facebook profile photo shows the rear of a yellow Toyota taxi, as if the vehicle is flashing, well, its behind.

In a way, it is — turning a laser-like spotlight on Afghanistan’s bickering politicians and ambitious warlords, corrupt officials and bureaucratic aides.

And if the creator’s dark mood weren’t already apparent, the phrase scrawled in white on the rear windscreen announces it baldly: “Life is bitter and the future ambiguous.”

Step inside the Kabul Taxi, the Facebook page of the Afghan capital’s latest political satirist. No one knows the identity of its creator, but in the past three months more than 13,000 people have “liked” the page — making it something of a sounding board for Afghans’ collective frustration.

The government is dysfunctional. Corruption is rife. The economy is floundering. Prices are rising, as is unemployment. And Kabul Taxi is tapping into the angst in a unique way.

On his page, he — we know it’s a man — writes in the local Dari language about picking up prominent Afghan officials in an imaginary taxi. In his back seat, they discuss politics, the economy, culture — and their rivalries. They are portrayed as insincere, power-hungry and more concerned about protecting their particular ethnic group than serving the people of Afghanistan.

No one is spared. Kabul Taxi picks equally on officials linked to President Ashraf Ghani and those aligned with Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s former electoral rival and current partner in the power-sharing government brokered by the United States.

In one scenario, he writes about a group of Ghani loyalists, all Pashtuns, making disparaging remarks about the Tajiks, the ethnicity of Abdullah. They then go on to belittle Abdullah, exposing rifts between the leader’s camps.

“Now Tajiks can’t do anything, because their hands are tied behind their backs,” says Hanif Atmar, Ghani’s national security adviser, from the back seat.

“Abdullah had convincing evidence of the fraud we committed in the election, but he couldn’t do anything,” Atmar continues. “We were lucky he was our rival. Despite his diplomatic appearance, Abdullah just can’t negotiate.”

In another post, Kabul Taxi criticizes former president Hamid Karzai — who is also riding in the back seat — for ignoring the plight of the ethnic Hazara minority. Then he uses Karzai to skewer both Ghani and Abdullah.

“While we were talking, I heard breaking news on my taxi’s radio,” he writes. “Karzai asked me: ‘What’s wrong?’ I replied that there had been an attack in Mazar-e Sharif and a number of people had been killed or wounded. He asked me, ‘Where are Abdullah and Ghani?’ I told him, ‘Mr. President, that’s what the people are asking.’ ”

So who is Kabul Taxi?

Reached through his Facebook page, Kabul Taxi agreed to answer a few questions. On the personal front, he was reticent. “I am around 31,” he wrote, “young, but my mind is old like Abdullah and Ghani.” It also seems he’s an ethnic Hazara, judging from his posts supporting the community and his legions of Facebook followers, most of whom seem to have Hazara backgrounds.

[After suffering under the Taliban, an Afghan minority faces new threats]

Kabul Taxi said he launched his Facebook page because of the “tumultuous situation” embroiling both government and society, citing problems such as “unemployment, poverty and violence.” In the absence of action by the authorities, he suggested, somebody had to do something.

“The government that is responsible for fixing the problems has not done so,” he said. “The anarchy and chaos are . . . why I created this Facebook page.”

Facebook is a growing phenomenon in Afghanistan, he noted, adding that he was inspired by the role the networking service and other social media played in bringing about social and political change during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

“The goal of this page is to follow, review and criticize the situation,” he wrote. “We consciously want to point out important issues.”

But why use a taxi?

Inside a taxi, he wrote, “you face different people, and diverse conversations take place about politics, economy, art, culture and philosophy. Sometimes there are passengers who talk about politics from pickup point to destination point. Taxi drivers are connected with the daily lives of the people.”

His fans agree. On his page, they give him suggestions on whom to pick up next. “When is the turn of President Ghani’s legal adviser?” wrote one person.

And they want his mini-essays to keep coming.

“I pray for your fuel tank to be always full,” wrote another fan.

Many of his admirers have asked to work with him, even support him financially, he said, but he has refused all offers and requests.

“Kabul Taxi has one driver,” he explained.


 
Source:   By:    

 


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