Tag Archives: NATO in Afghanistan

Really, Mark Sedwill?

(AFP-- through RFE/RL)

I  believe that Mark Sedwill is a highly qualified, smart guy. But the following comesas  a big surprise. Don’t know what frame of mind he was in

KABUL (Reuters) – Children are probably safer growing up in Afghanistan’s major cities, including the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, than in London, New York, or Glasgow, NATO’s top civilian envoy to Afghanistan has said.

Mark Sedwill’s comments were made during an interview to be aired on Monday on Children’s BBC Newsround, a popular British daily current affairs program aimed at children.

“Here and in Kabul and the other big cities, actually, there are very few of those bombs,” he said.

“The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York or Glasgow or many other cities,” he said.

“It’s a very family-orientated society, so it is a little bit like a city of villages,” he said.

His remarks, which feature in a two-part series exploring the lives of children in Afghanistan, were rejected as misleading by an official from the aid group Save the Children.

“One in five children die before they get to the age of five. So to say it’s safer than to live in London, New York or Glasgow is daft,” said the representative from Save the Children, who requested anonymity so he could speak freely.

According to New York Times, Mr. Sedwill tried to  claim that his remarks were aired out of context. But the best thing would have been just to apologize and move on with it. Here is the NYT quote from his email:

“I was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan,” he said. “In cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many Western children would experience. For most Afghans, the biggest challenges are from poverty — the absence of clean water, open sewers, malnutrition, disease — and many more children are at risk from those problems than from the insurgency.”

Another telling quote from the NYT article:

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says such episodes [violence against children] are increasingly common. A new report by the commission noted what it said was a worrying increase in violence against children as well as child labor in all Afghan provinces.

“Mr. Sedwill should come to the Human Rights Commission and consider the reports we receive on a daily basis,” said Hussein Mushrat, the report’s author. “Children are not safer here.”

Al Jazeera would like to remind Mr. Sedwill of what he misses to see in his time in Kabul:

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Ambassador Stubborn Holbrooke

Karzai's rocky relationship with the west: Richard Holbrooke the cause? Mark Wilson/Getty Images/zimbio

Kai Eide, the former UN special representative to Afghanistan, has been very vocal in his criticism of the Obam Administration’s approach to the Karzai government. He has blamed Obama’s civil and military leaders for the continuous strain in the relationship with Kabul.

In a recent interview published by BBC Pashto, Mr. Eide was was especially critical of Obama’s envoy to South Asia, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.  Mr. Eide claimed that Holbrooke was stubborn and unaware of Afghan sensitivities.

“I think Holbrooke’s approach, especially at the beginnings of Obama administration,  was very harmful. He is a person who got very involved in the Presidential elections. I agree that a lot of wrongdoings happened in the elections. But foreigners like Holbrooke, too, got very involved. This became the source of the tensions that we have today.”

Some other key points from the interview:

–Mr. Eide disagreed with the decision for announcing withdrawal date, saying it has caused panic among European members of NATO. They, too, are looking for a way out now, which has strained the Afghan government’s trust in its international partners.

— On Karzai’s relationship to the West: “I agree that President Karzai’s approach has been lacking. But I also see that the international community’s approach towards him, especially the United States’,  has played a major role in straining the relationship between Karzai and the West. And they do not realize that they have let down and distanced not only Karzai but also other leaders in that country, which can affect the larger population too. You can’t go into the country and say: I am your guest, but I will be dictating terms here based on my own ideas. These things won’t work in Afghanistan. I have said this at the Security Council also, and the US Ambassador in Kabul, Eikenberry, agrees with me. But no one listens to him either.”

— “Its imperative that leaders, especially those in Washington, learn the art of learning and listening.  When the Obama administration took over, they distinguished themselves from the previous administration in the fact that they will listen to others. Unfortunately, that’s not what I see. And this factor has played a major role in why we are in a mess today”