Tag Archives: Obama

A New Afghanistan

The younger generation of Afghan politicians–people like Fawzi Koofi, Waheed Omer, Amrullah Salleh etc– give me tremendous hope for the country.

Here is a excerpt from Fawzia Koofi’s recent profile in Ms. Magazine:

Representing the distant Badakhshan province, this single mother of two young girls is a tenacious voice in the national discourse. Whether debating electoral fraud on television or revealing abuses in the prison system in Parliament, her passion and unbending civility stands out as a rare combination in the country’s infant democracy. She won the second highest number of votes from her province in the recent parliamentary elections, only 250 behind the leading candidate (a former commander), and a resounding 7,000 votes ahead of her closest male competitor. In a country where women largely make it to the Parliament because of a gender quota, the election results speak to Ms. Koofi’s popularity. At the local level she has championed the building of a highway from Kabul to Faizabad. At the national level, through her agenda and personal example, she has worked tirelessly to achieve substantial women participation in national politics.

To read the rest of the articleMs. Magazine:  Fawzia Koofi: Making a New Afghanistan For Her Daughters

Waheed Omer, the current spokesperson to President Karzai, is an impressively well-rounded character. Well educated, with a masters from York University, Omer is a poet, a writer, and a masterful orator. A former civil society activist– founder of Young Leaders Forum– Omer has spent the past 6 years in different capacities in the government. He founded the Government Media and Information Center. He was a major factor in Karzai reelection: as his campaign spokesperson, he managed the local media very well. Equally fluent in Dari and Pashto, his television debates were critical in defending Karzai’s image despite being a position of great weakness. His proficiency in both languages showed Karzai as a national figure while Abdullah’s representatives stuck to one language, Dari.

But what is most impressive about Omer is his mix of energy, eloquence, and civility that he brings to his politics.

We need more Fawzia Koofis and Waheed Omers to step up for the sake of a new Afghanistan.


Peace with the Taliban

What is at stake in the Afghan government’s efforts to make peace with the Taliban?

Amrullah Saleh, a former intelligence chief under Karzai and current opponent of the president’s policy, agrees. He told prominent Kabul-based television channel Tolo News: “They are the same Taliban who used scorched-earth tactics against not only humans but also trees and animals. Nothing has changed about their cruelty.”

Saleh and his former government colleague Hanif Atmar have been vocal in their opposition to government attempts to forge a deal, with Atmar, the interior minister until he resigned in the autumn, calling the talks “political insanity”.

The two men, well respected as effective administrators during their years in Karzai’s national security team, are leading a vociferous opposition. Their insight into the Taliban, appeal to young people and undeniable eloquence has put the government’s political agenda in an awkward position.

A recent piece at Al Jazeera English: Rebranding the Taliban

The Power of Youth…and their Vulnerability

In the wake of the Egyptian revolution, and in relation to Dexter Filkin’s recent post about the lessons of Egypt to Afghanistan, I was reminded of a passage by Pankaj Mishra. It describes the winds of change that blew in Afghanistan in the 1960s and how the youth of Kabul University marched the streets. In retrospect, those events manifest the power of the youth as well as their vulnerability:

It is hard to imagine now, but for students at Kabul University, 1968 was no less a hectic year than it was for students at Columbia, Berkeley, Oxford, and the Sorbonne. A king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, had been presiding over the many ethnic and tribal enclaves of Afghanistan since 1933. But he knew enough of the world elsewhere to attempt, cautiously, a few liberal reforms in his capital city, Kabul. The university had been set up in 1946; a liberal constitution was introduced in 1964; the press was technically free; women ran for public office in 1965. By the Sixties, many students and teachers had traveled abroad; and new ideas about how to organize the state and society had come to the sons of peasants and nomads and artisans from their foreign or foreign-educated teachers.

In the somewhat rarefied world of modernizing Kabul, where women were allowed to appear without the veil in 1959, communism and radical Islam attracted almost an equal number of believers: to these impatient men, the great Afghan countryside with its antique ways appeared ready for revolution. It was from this fledgling intelligentsia in Kabul that almost all of the crucial political figures of the next three decades emerged.

Pankaj Mishra, The Making of Afghanistan


Absurdities revealed in WikiLeaks


I will be updating this post with some of the absurd things from the Wikileaks, relating to Afghanistan.

Here is US embassy in Kabul’s analysis of a minister proposed to the Parliament by President Karzai. What a Genius!

--Commerce - Ghulam Mohammad Elaqi (Hazara). 
He was the Central Bank Chairman in 
the 1990s, and former Chamber of Commerce President until 2008. 
He was allegedly accused of corruption in 2001. His nomination 
was supported by Mohaqqeq,although he also has a relationship with 
competing Hazara powerbroker Khalili. 
Khalili appointed him as a secondary representative at the 2001 
Bonn conference. He reportedly owns a factory in Tashkent used to
 export special bags made from sheep stomach that are used frequently
 by heroine smugglers to prevent detection. Also, reportedly he took 
about $1.5 million from small businessmen in Afghanistan in 1995 to 
open a trading company, but instead absconded with the funds.