Riding the ‘talking to the Taliban’ train, with the brakes jammed

The “talking to the Taliban” policy was doomed to fail from the start. But it has seeped into the international agenda by osmosis and although the boat is sinking, it’s now too late to desert the ship.

Withdrawal Symptoms: Afghans Anxious Over Obama’s Out of Afghanistan Plan

US President Barack Obama has finally set out a troop pullout plan for Afghanistan. But amid rumors of businesses shutting down and talk of a likely civil war, many Afghans are wary of what the future holds.

US Ambassador Slams Karzai’s ‘Hurtful and Inappropriate’ Remarks

Diplomats rarely get emotional – at least not in public and certainly not on the job. But in his latest address to a group of university students and faculty members, US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry did just that.

Battered, bruised, now threatened by new Afghan plan for women’s shelters

Urged by Afghanistan's answer to Rush Limbaugh, the Afghan government’s new move to take over the operations of women's shelters threatens the safety of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Talking to the Taliban: Violence against women not on the cards

As the world marks International Elimination of Violence Against Women Day, Afghan women such as Bibi Aisha are wondering what’s in store for them as the international community eyes a troop withdrawal while talking to the Taliban.

Time to Go: Why Did 2 Top Afghan Security Bosses Quit?

Nobody really accepted the official version of the story. So now that the theories are starting to roll out, they’re worth considering.

On Sunday, the Afghan presidential palace announced the resignations of the country’s interior minister, Hanif Atmar, and intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh.

The breaking news alert was presented as a fait accompli and caught everyone by surprise. Usually this sort of news starts with unconfirmed reports, followed by official confirmations, which in turn are followed by official announcements. This time, the old steps were skipped.


Instead, we got a statement from the presidential palace, no less, informing us that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had already accepted the resignations. The stated reason was the officials’ failure to prevent the attacks on the peace jirga. (See blog, “Let the jirga games begin – with a bang")

Yesterday’s leaders have a plan for tomorrow’s peace

In the end, the 1,600-odd jirga delegates hammered out a proposal – that’s the good news.

But that’s also hardly surprising. The delegates were, after all, handpicked by the Karzai administration.

Where was Rashid Dostum, the warlord from the North and powerful Junbish boss? Count the Uzbeks out.

No sign of Mohammad Mohaqiq either. Should we count the Hazaras out as well?

And then, there were the old familiars: Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan prime minister, the man who could not control Afghanistan’s descent into civil war following the Soviet withdrawal.

Rabbani of all people was made jirga chair in a last-minute pre-jirga negotiation.

If we’re looking to Rabbani for the future stability of Afghanistan, I’m investing in a new wardrobe of body armor for the future.

Let the jirga games begin – with a bang

After many delays, several faux pas, and much discourse over conflicting goals and a lack of direction, the much-awaited peace jirga kicked off this morning – with a bang.


The usual bang – or bangs – it must be said, although this time, the rockets came pretty close.


The first one came just as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was delivering the inaugural address inside the giant white tent erected on the grounds of the Kabul Polytechnic University.


It did however provide an opportunity for some quintessentially Karzai stabs at humor. “Perhaps someone’s trying to fire a rocket,” he quipped in deadpan mode. “Even a three-year-old would not be afraid. Let’s continue.” And continue he did, to his credit.


But then, as the sounds of rockets and gunfire inched closer, Karzai wrapped up his speech and promptly left.


It’s here, the much-awaited Pentagon Afghanistan progress report

Just printed my weekend reading: the much-awaited Pentagon report to Congress titled, “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan”. That’s 152 pages of mostly not-so-good, but not-all-that-bad either progress report on Afghanistan from Oct. 1, 2009 through March 2010.

For those interested in ploughing through the report, just click here.

For those interested in a summary, here goes: Overall, there were real signs of progress on stability, thanks to the military surge.

Bad news for Afghan President Hamid Karzai though as he prepares for his Washington visit next month: the Afghan population supports Karzai’s government only 29 of the 121 strategically important provinces.

The reason for this? Corruption and inefficiency. This is not going make the current resident at the Arg (the Afghan Presidential Palace) very happy - just as Washington and Kabul were trying to mend those fences…