1 September 2011Feature

Kathy Kelly on courtyard life and courtyard death in Pakistan and Afghanistan

It’s a bit odd to me that with my sense of geographical direction I’m ever regarded as a leader to guide groups in foreign travel. I’m recalling a steaming hot night in Lahore, Pakistan, when Josh Brollier and I, having enjoyed a lengthy dinner with Lahore University students, needed to head back to the guest lodgings graciously provided us by a headmaster of the Garrison School for Boys.

We had boarded a rickshaw, but the driver had soon become terribly lost and with my spotty sense…

1 September 2011Feature

PN examines three central lies at the heart of the latest Afghan war.

Ten years after al-Qa’eda’s 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, the global antiwar movement is preparing to mark the tenth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Three official lies stand out.

The first lie is that the war was inevitable, that it was the only way of bringing the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice.

In October 2001, not only had the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan offered in principle to extradite Osama bin Laden to a third (Muslim)…

1 September 2011News

Though barely reported in the mainstream press, evidence continues to mount that US, not Taliban, intransigence is the real barrier to a peace deal to end the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, according to a recent report for Inter Press Service (IPS) by journalist and historian Gareth Porter, the Taliban’s leadership is prepared to negotiate a peace settlement as soon as the US “indicates its willingness to provide a timetable for complete withdrawal.”

Ready to withdraw?

Taliban officials explained the movement’s position in late July during a meeting in Kabul with the former Afghan Prime Minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai.

“They said once the Americans say…

1 September 2011News

160 children killed in Pakistan

Drones may be “the perfect weapons for a war weary nation on a tight budget” as one journalist wrote recently, but reported civilian casualties from drone strikes continue to rise. For the first time the British ministry of defence (MoD) has admitted that one of its drone strikes killed Afghan civilians in March 2011. The deaths of the unnamed Afghans was revealed by an anonymous correspondent from the UK’s permanent joint headquarters (PJHQ) at RAF Northwood in reply to one of my Freedom of…

13 August 2011Feature

Established in 1977, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) is an independent women’s organisation fighting for human rights and social justice in Afghanistan. RAWA opposed the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-89, as well as the subsequent mujahideen and Taliban governments, running underground schools for Afghan girls, publishing a journal and setting up humanitarian projects. Mariam Rawi, a member of RAWA’s foreign relations committee,…

13 August 2011Feature

Ian Sinclair spoke recently to the radical watchdog Media Lens about the media’s role in the escalating war in Afghanistan

Since setting up the Media Lens website in 2002, David Edwards and David Cromwell have been publishing regular free Media Alerts “correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media”. Dissecting the reporting of issues such as Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and climate change in the liberal media (the BBC, Guardian, Independent and so on) Media Lens encourages readers to email individual journalists to take them to task, always urging those that do “to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non…

1 July 2011News

US officials have secretly advocated that NATO take steps to ramp-up Taliban violence and extremism in Afghanistan, a leaked document has revealed.

Recent claims by Afghan president Hamid Karzai that the US has started “peace talks” with the Taliban – and official US confirmation that it has been engaged in “very preliminary” contacts with them – have fuelled media speculation about the possibilty of a negotiated end to the war, the option long favoured by the majority of ordinary Afghans (see PN 2530).

Though US officials have publicly justified military escalation by claiming that it is needed to force the Taliban to the…

1 July 2011Letter

Described by one Pentagon adviser as an “industrial scale counter-terrorism killing machine”, the US’s ongoing Kill-Capture campaign in Afghanistan has killed over 3000 Taliban fighters in the last year, according to The Times’s Stephen Grey. I would be interested in how Nick Kent [PN2534] squares these mass targeted killings with his belief that the NATO mission in Afghanistan is “a peacekeeping force”?

1 June 2011News

Britain to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, playing

British forces are likely to remain in Afghanistan long after David Cameron’s 2014 deadline for the end of Britain’s “combat” mission, according to the commander of British forces in the country, general James Bucknall.

Bucknall told the Guardian, “December [2014] is not a campaign end date but a waypoint – a point at which the coalition security posture changes from one that is in the lead to one that is mentoring and advising, but is still here.”

Following press reports that…

1 June 2011News

US drones continue to target Pakistan, despite opposition

On 13 May, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced it is forming a second RAF drones squadron to be based at RAF Waddington, Lincs. RAF pilots will then control the UK’s armed Reaper drones that fly in Afghanistan from Waddington rather than the Creech US air force (USAF) base in Nevada. Defence secretary, Liam Fox noted that this followed the doubling of the UK’s Reaper capability to ten aircraft, an increased investment of £135m in drone warfare.

A recent article by two senior MoD…

1 June 2011News in Brief

Peace activist and PN columnist Maya Evans won a judicial review at the high court on 12 May, overturning a new rule introduced last year ending legal aid for applicants who would not directly benefit from their claims. Maya had already successfully challenged the Ministry of Defence’s policy of handing over detainees in Afghanistan to the local police.

Maya, from the peace group Justice Not Vengeance, said: “The Ministry of Defence has tried to cut off funding for politically…

28 May 2011Blog entry

<p>Milan Rai interviews the Tricycle Theatre's artistic director</p>

I was in two minds as to how to write up the interview with Nicolas Kent. Our usual format in PN is to just to present the transcript of the interview, and that’s what we did in the end (for an unusually long three pages), but I was very tempted to write it up in a more traditional journalistic style. These notes are a small move to bringing a bit more of the flavour of the thing over.

When I called up to arrange the interview, Nicolas Kent was very gracious, but it was clear he was…

1 May 2011News

Reports that the Obama administration is about to get serious about peace talks in Afghanistan are belied by plans for long-term bases

“[W]e must talk to the Taliban. Without that, we will leave a broken country. Our present strategy, says one official who has been at the heart of it, “is all a big, big lie”” - Guardian columnist Julian Glover.

Following “extensive interviews in Washington with many of the key players involved in Afghan policy”, renowned Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid recently reported that the US is “preparing for extensive diplomatic initiatives in the next few months to take the fledgling peace…

1 May 2011Feature

A report from the recent Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation to support the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

“Afghans understand that the US is here for its own interests and to get rid of al-Qa’eda for their own protection.” We were in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, speaking with the head of an Afghan human rights NGO. “But when they came,” she continued, “Afghans had to choose the better group to support, and US presence brings some benefits to the people. We are hoping NATO forces will also help with our problems from neighbouring countries.”

Our delegation, sponsored by the Chicago-based…

19 April 2011Blog entry

<p>Maya Evans reflects on courts, money and human rights</p>

The Judge Lord Justice Laws looked over his glasses, he was a no messing kind of guy with a habit of cutting to the chase immediately. “So this £50- £100 k figure, where did it come from? Is it the governments?”

The defence Lawyer for the Secretary of State Mr Grodzinski flicked through his papers to find the source. Indeed it was the government’s calculated annual expense for judicial reviews- cost was the main justification which the Ministry of Justice had used to cut legal aid for…