Afghanistan

1 March 2011News in Brief

According to official figures, nine members of the armed forces have applied for discharge as conscientious objectors since the Afghanistan war started in 2001, it was disclosed at the end of January. In the previous 10 years, 13 navy personnel and one soldier applied for CO status. In February 2010, based on a Freedom of Information Act request, the Independent revealed that British soldiers have gone AWOL on more than 17,000 occasions since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

1 March 2011Comment

May's cabinet reshuffle and, reportedly, tearful sacking, can't hide the fact that the Labour government is in freefall, with an increasingly desperate and messianic-looking Blair at the helm.

Out went Clarke - for all the wrong reasons, and out went Straw - the loyal functionary who stayed the course as foreign secretary during the most unpopular conflict Britain has ever perpetrated. “Two-jags” Prescott kept his perks, but lost some of his official power - this parody of authentic…

1 March 2011News

Even as the current US-led escalation in Afghanistan continues to shut-down the still-live option of a negotiated end to the war, a new report has confirmed that the US blocked Taliban efforts to reconcile with the Afghan government in the wake of the 2001 invasion – efforts that could have ended the current war eight years ago.

According to a recent paper for New York University’s Centre for International Cooperation, written by Kandahar-based researchers Felix Kuehn and Alex Strick…

1 February 2011News

Barack Obama should “sanction and support a direct dialogue with the Afghan Taliban leadership residing in Pakistan”, according to an open letter to the US President signed by over fifty experts on Afghanistan. Noting that “the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country”, the signatories – who include pro-invasion Telegraph reporter Ahmed Rashid, academics from both the National War College (US) and King’s College…

1 February 2011News

Worldwide, voices of young people are challenging repressive systems

At four in the morning on New Year’s Day 2011, a group of young Afghan peace makers and their much older US colleagues huddled around a laptop computer in Kabul, to begin a 24-hour conversation with people from all over the world: “Dear Afghanistan”.

The effort consisted of an entire day of Skyped-in phone calls, emails, Facebook and Twitter posts, with the goals of providing an opportunity for world citizens to learn about Afghanistan first-hand from experts – people trying to…

1 November 2010Feature

The city of Bamiyan, with a population of roughly 60,000, has only one paved street, a wide, two-kilometer road without lanes that is a site of constant activity from 5am to curfew at 10pm, and is referred to as the “bazaar” because it is lined on both sides with shops.

In our short time here, we’ve been struck by how hard people, both in town and in the outlying villages, have to work to make a meagre living. Children clearly work hard, too, seeming to participate fully in the…

1 November 2010News

Despite a spate of recent press reports regarding secret high-level talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban leadership, brutal US and British actions on the ground are undermining the prospects for a negotiated end to the war.

According to the Washington Post, the talks have involved “extensive, face-to-face discussions with Taliban commanders from the highest levels of the group’s leadership” – from both the Quetta Shura (the Taliban’s Pakistan-based governing body…

1 November 2010News in Brief

A new cross-party group of British parliamentarians has been launched to press for British withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Withdrawal Group has LibDem, Tory, Labour and Plaid Cymru members and is co-chaired by Green MP Caroline Lucas. The group will be holding regular public briefings in the House of Commons.

1 November 2010News in Brief

Residents of Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan (the “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” or FATA) are overwhelmingly opposed to both US military action in their region (87%) and the presence of al-Qa’eda in the FATA (77%), according to a poll conducted on behalf of the New American Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow this July.
A huge majority, 77%, said that their opinion of the US would improve either “a great deal” (57%) or “somewhat” (20%) if the US withdrew from…

1 November 2010News in Brief

Excerpts from legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book Obama at War have appeared across the mainstream press.
Revelations that you may have missed include:

The Obama administration has a “retribution” plan calling for “bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan” in the event of a successful future terrorist attack in the US. The CIA has recruited a 3,000-strong army of Afghans, known as “Counterterrorism Pursuit…

3 October 2010Comment

You think sometimes you’re beyond being shocked any more by anything and then you are. At 8.30pm yesterday (9 September) I listened to the news on BBC Five Live. It’s a sports station so the lead stories concerned sport and corruption I think – I didn’t pay much attention – and then came this bombshell: the Commons had voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping British troops in Afghanistan. Only 14 MPs voted for their removal. The newsreader stated this was the first time they’d had a chance…

1 October 2010Feature

Deconstructing the war in Afghanistan

Myth 1: We’re finally “turning the corner” (deputy prime minister Nick Clegg) and are starting to win the war in Afghanistan.

Clearly, principled opponents of the war oppose it on the grounds that it is immoral rather than unwinnable. Nonetheless, arguments about the war’s winnability continue to play a key role in public debate.

For example, in September’s parliamentary debate on the war (see p2), defence secretary Liam Fox claimed that: “Over the past few years the strategic…

1 October 2010News

In their first ever vote on the issue, Britain’s MPs have overwhelmingly backed Britain’s continued involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Over 300 MPs voted in favour of the motion “That this House supports the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan”, with only 14 voting against, following a poorly-attended five-hour debate on 9 September (reportedly, less than 100 MPs showed up).

Perhaps recognising that the motion appeared to have been deliberately couched in terms…

1 October 2010News in Brief

PN columnist Maya Evans has launched a legal challenge to force an investigation into the killing of civilians by British forces in Afghanistan, following the publication of thousands of secret US military documents by Wikileaks in July.
The documents contain accounts of at least 21 separate incidents in which British troops are alleged to have shot or bombed civilians, killing at least 26 people, including two unusual clusters of shootings: in Kabul in October 2007; and in Helmand in…

1 September 2010News

A British soldier who spent four months in jail for refusing to return to Afghanistan has spoken of the “unbelievable support” that he received from fellow soldiers during his imprisonment at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester.

Jailed in March and released on 12 July, Joe Glenton told left-wing website Counterfire that “there was a period they went through when they’d all chant ‘Free Joe Glenton’ on parade – half to probably annoy the staff, and half-joking…