Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where are the people of Afghanistan?

After looking through articles regarding Afghanistan, I really began to wonder: Where are the Afghanistan people? For this post, I looked at two articles I found that report about the recent bombings in Kandahar this past weekend. The first is story by CNN and the second is from the Wall Street Journal Asia.

CNN: Taliban Web site claims Afghan blasts were 'message' to U.S. general

The CNN story is something that I usually expect to see. The focus is on the Kandahar bombings and is mostly focused on the message left on a Taliban website that said the target of the bombings was the US general of Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The rest of the article goes on to talk about Gen. Stanley McChrystal who promised to “secure Kandahar.” He also notes that the military is already doing security operations in Kandahar that is part of a “larger counterinsurgency effort.” While the article does note the amount of civilians that were injured and killed during the bombings, it does not have any statements from the citizens, other than from officials. The video attached to the article is very brief, although the story was still developing. It shows a map of Kandahar and talks about what was hit and the way two of the bombings were believed to be carried out, but there were no images of the bombings destruction.

The Taliban denied killing any civilians in the Web site statement: March 15, 2010, library pressdisplay (if you would like to read it)

In the Wall Street Journal Asia, takes a different angle of the story. Instead of focusing on the reactions of the US, it focuses on the impact this has had on the people who witnessed the bombings. They explain that the Taliban’s main target was the prison in Kandahar, which holds many of the Taliban detainees. According to the article, the other bombings, including one to a police station, were merely diversions to keep security away from the prison compound. The article claims the attacks were part of a larger motive to “intimidate Kandahar’s population and paralyze the Afghan government’s activities.”

Despite the Taliban’s boastful claims of killing or injuring a large number of US and coalition soldiers, many of the victims were civilians. But the Taliban fervently denied killing any civilians, not wanting to lose any public support. They claim that the attacks took place during “curfew” hours, even though the article notes that no such curfew exists. One thing that struck me about this article was a statement made by Agha Shirin, a 22 yr old tailor. “There was a huge flame in the air, and then the electricity was gone in the whole area. Windows shattered and children started to cry.” This statement is so powerful and really gives you a firsthand look into the bombings.

In my opinion, I thought the WSJ-Asia article did a great job at giving a different point of view of the bombings. Usually when I read articles like these, most of the comments and concerns revolve around the military officials that are there to clean up and react to the mess. For this article it focused on the outrage and impact of the civilians that witnessed the attacks, which gave me more of a connection with the story.

Once I started looking for the point of view of the Afghan people, I came across an opinion article on the Kabul Press website: “What if the people of Afghanistan could choose?” This article talks about the January 2010 Referendum held by President Obama in order to decide on withdrawing troops. Of course the article acknowledges know the public’s full opinion is very difficult. The polls are so varied by region and ethnicity and the margin of error is fairly large for the country.

However, the article asserts that in order for the people to have a voice, the US President and Congress would have to first create a open forum in which the people of Afghanistan can speak about what they want. The article notes President Karzai opinion on the matter, who says, according to the article, that he expects the US military to continue its presence until 2024.

The article predicts how this open forum of the Afghan people’s voice would change the dynamics of the war. First, it says that if the people do decide to keep troops in Afghanistan, the US can expect greater cooperation from the public and would know that it is respecting the wants of the citizens. However, one the same note, if the public decides they want the troops out and the US abides by this they will also be respecting the wants of the people. According to the article, if this were to be the case it offers the US a few options. First, the US might want to provide training for police and military personnel. Second, it could provide support in order to rebuild the country’s economy, political and education systems. And finally, the article boldly asserts that the US could make payments to the militia, “in the same way that the US, perhaps in large part, bought its way out of an insurgency in Iraq.

I thought this article was interesting because it really tries to get people to stop thinking about the “official” word (i.e. US) on what should happen in Afghanistan, but rather what do the Afghan people actually want to happen. The article makes a good point, in order for a true democracy to happen in Afghanistan, the people’s voice must be heard and their opinions used in order to make decisions.

Article links:

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