Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Corruption Report Places Afghanistan Amongst the Worst

Transparency International, an international corruption watchdog has released a damning list of 180 nations, ranking each in order of most corrupt to least corrupt. Nations were assigned numerical orderings, based on criteria culled from ‘general impressions’ in business and political communities and incidences of published corruption. The results of the Study, the CPI (Corruptions Perception Index) placed Afghanistan as one of the most corrupt nations in the world, second only to Somalia.

Ranking nations on a scale of zero to ten, with zero being the most corrupt possible, the study accrues data from international economic institutions and compiles them into a central report. Burma, Sudan and Iraq were close behind. Even after thousands of lives lost in the establishment of peace, good government and rule of law in Afghanistan, the country is still immensely corrupt by international standards.

Some of the reasons are cited as governmental corruption, money laundering, tacit support of the opium trade and influence peddling. A blog at transparency international’s homepage also cites the multi-billion dollar projects of American defence contracting companies as heavily corrupt, further dragging the nation down in the rankings.


Transparency International- Corruption Perceptions Index 2009: What does a number mean to you?
Turkish Weekly – Afghanistan, Iraq Rated Among Most Corrupt Nations
Reuters – Afghanistan sinks in new corruption ranking

Monday, November 9, 2009

Canada Announces 'Draw Down' of Combat Presence

An announcement made by Chief of the Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk has laid the groundwork of a ‘drawdown’ of Canadian military personnel in Afghanistan to occur over the next year and a half. Canada has currently no plan for combat troops to remain in the country after the summer of 2011. The planned withdrawal is based on a framework laid out by parliament, requesting that Canada end its military field involvement by 2011. The next year and a half will embody a good deal of logistical and clerical work as Canada begins to move materiel and later men, out of theatre. Defence minister Peter McKay has avoided speaking directly as to the post 2011 commitment that Canada will have in Afghanistan, but sources indicate that Canadian troop levels will be minimal following that deadline.

"I would caution you against saying dozens or hundreds or a thousand, there will be exponentially fewer… Whether there's 20 or 60 or 80 or 100, they will not be conducting combat operations."

-Spokesperson for Steven Harper, Dmitri Soudas.

There are 2800 Canadian troops in Theatre, and casualties have consisted of 133 soldiers and a diplomat. As the Canadian nation makes preparations for Remembrance Day ceremonies, the government has awarded for the first time, a medal intended for soldiers killed or wounded in Afghanistan. The ‘Sacrifice Medal,’ (pictured above) created last year was bestowed upon 46 individuals yesterday and formally replaced the wound stripe (pictured below) which was the standard decoration, since the second world war.

The Ottawa Citizen – No plans for Afghanistan after 2011, top general affirms

Xinhua - Canada awards medals to soldiers killed or wounded in military actions

Saturday, November 7, 2009

US Army Psychiatrist Who Shot 43 at Fort Hood, Killed 13 Was Being Deployed to Afghanistan

At about 1:30PM November 5th, a US Army Major, Nidal Malik Hasan walked through the doors of the Soldier Readiness Centre at Fort Hood Texas, drew two pistols and opened fire. The building where the shooting took place was filled with military personnel waiting for routine pre-deployment medical examinations and dental work. The readiness centre at Fort Hood (One of the largest military installations in the world) is the hub of activity on that base for troops about to be deployed to one of America’s theatres of operations overseas. Preliminary reports indicate that Maj. Hasan was scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan.

His position in the Military will no doubt raise some questions about the potential effect of radicalization on the upper echelons of command. The forthcoming paranoia that Idea-Driven Fourth Generation Warfare has so thoroughly penetrated the defense department will no doubt result in a high degree of internal awareness as well as scrutiny of the US Military’s Chain of Command and Leadership Structure from external agencies. The FBI is reported to have arrived on base within the hour and is providing its investigative services, as the Army is still unsure whether the act constitutes terrorism. An American born man of Jordanian descent, he has been called ‘a lifelong muslim’ by Faizul Khan, a former Imam at the mosque he attended (often in uniform) His family has been quoted as saying that he received harassment in the workplace for his religious choices. Maj. Hasan had raised the attention of authorities up to six months ago with the publication of personal musings online which suggested that terrorists carrying out suicide bomb attacks were similar to troops that would throw themselves selflessly onto a grenade to save their comrades.

“There was a grenade thrown among a group of American soldiers. One of the soldiers, feeling that it was to late for everyone to flee jumped on the grave with the intention of saving his comrades. Indeed he saved them. He inentionally took his life (suicide) for a noble cause i.e. saving the lives of his soldier. To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate. Its more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause. Scholars have paralled this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers. If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory. Their intention is not to die because of some despair. The same can be said for the Kamikazees in Japan. They died (via crashing their planes into ships) to kill the enemies for the homeland. You can call them crazy i you want but their act was not one of suicide that is despised by Islam. So the scholars main point is that ‘IT SEEMS AS THOUGH YOUR INTENTION IS THE MAIN ISSUE’ and Allah (SWT) knows best.
Poster: NidalHasan Source: Scribd.com

Maj. Hasan’s role as a psychiatrist means he had access to troops returning from theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan and provided them with professional post-traumatic stress counseling. Graduating from VA Tech with a degree in biochemistry, he joined the Army and worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center pursuing his career in psychiatry, as an intern, a resident and a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He received his medical degree from the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001
"He never went to Iraq. He was dealing with people coming back, trying to help them with their trauma," Nader Hasan (Gunman’s Cousin) said. "He was just normal, loved sports, never got into trouble.” On paperwork obtained by the media, filled out at his mosque, Maj. Hasan indicated that his birthplace was Arlington VA. And that his nationality was ‘Palestinian’.

A US Army Col. (ret.) Terry Lee claimed to have worked with Maj. Hasan and elaborated to the media that it was Hasan’s desire to see American troops withdrawn from warzones in Afghanistan and Iraq. His anti-war perspectives brought him into direct conflict with his co-workers and superiors and records indicate that he had sought legal proceedings on the grounds of a harassment claim to prevent his deployment to Afghanistan.

His decision to walk into an on-base processing centre was not preceded by any clear warning signs. He donated some furniture and a bag of frozen broccoli to his neighbors, one of whom he told he was moving to Oklahoma, the other was told he was deploying to Iraq. Maj. Hasan then went to a convenience store for a breakfast of hash browns and coffee dressed in a traditional robe and cap. Then, he proceeded to the site of the shootings, in his US Army Uniform where he drew a single 5.7mm FN ‘Five Seven’ Pistol and opened fire, pumping about 100 rounds into the crowds in the Soldier Readiness Centre. Investigators have noted he was carrying a second handgun, but that it was never drawn. The weapon he chose is an elegant one, with a highly specialized purpose. Its round penetration physics are such that it is designed to be employed against targets wearing body armour and leaving a much larger than normal exit wound (despite the lightweight nature of the actual projectile).

Whatever the reason for his irrational and catastrophic meltdown that precipitated these heinous actions, the fact that he survived the exchange of gunfire fit to stand trial means significant potential down the road revelations. Military service records indicate he had requested not to be deployed to Iraq but was willing to be deployed to Afghanistan. This incident followed only a day after an Afghan national police officer opened fire on his British colleagues, killing five and then escaping. Whether the incident in Afghanistan provided some sort of ideological inspiration for Maj. Hasan’s action will doubtless come out in any ensuing investigation. For now, the focus of the American Department of Defence is most certainly turned inward, dealing with support for soldiers and their families, respectful treatment of the dead and preventative measures to ensure that radicalization of both the enlisted men and educated officership is much more readily detected.


ABC - Fort Hood Gunman who Killed 12, Wounded 30 Survived Gun Battle
Christian Science Monitor - What did the Army know about Fort Hood's Nidal Malik Hasan?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Echoes of Iraq: UN Evacuates International Staff

The United Nations announced that it was evacuating hundreds of its non-essential international personnel from Afghanistan on Thursday, citing a deteriorating security situation as the impetus for this move. 600 of the nations 1100 staff are to be moved. This constitutes a serious development for progress by the international community to stabilize the country, as well as a direct blow to western military efforts. The decision comes on the heels of a series of fast-moving events over the last fortnight. A failed presidential election runoff, with the opposition candidate withdrawing from the ballot and a suicide attack on a UN guesthouse which killed five volunteer staff there have marred much of the impression of progress, combined with a sharp increase in casualties, the situation is ‘worsening’.

In August 2003, a massive bomb blast at the UN Headquarters in Iraq killed 22 workers in that country. As a result, the UN made arrangements to involuntarily remove its international personnel from the nation. The situation in Afghanistan has an eerie parallel. The difference is that Iraq was less than a year from its inception, Afghanistan has had almost a decade of international intervention in every aspect of its internal affairs. Security would appear to be deteriorating, but whether this is indeed the case or whether the insurgency is fighting with its last failing strength remains to be seen.

The penalties for failure are dire, if the situation deteriorates further and a mass exodus of NGOs, aid groups and contractors occurs, it will seriously damage the credibility of any future NATO effort, as well as the ability of the United Nations to function in regions of unrest. The penalty for an organization like NATO could potentially be the fragmentation of its own international composition, as countries withdraw from their obligations or outright quit the alliance structure in disenfranchisement. Failure in Afghanistan could quite potentially mean the failure of those things which were so hard won throughout the tense years of the Cold War. So the world simply cannot fail.

Transitioning towards an exit strategy is of course important, and may result in a coherent ‘end date’ for combat operations and transition into more peaceful practices of shoring up security and creating infrastructure. Moving too quickly toward the door just because of a few bad hands will give the whole game away and the stakes are far too high for international institutions, individual nations and the people of Afghanistan itself.


Reuters – U.N. pulls out foreign staff from Afghanistan
Reuters - Factbox- The worsening security picture in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk- Our mission in Afghanistan can still succeed

Monday, November 2, 2009

Afghanistan’s Runoff Election Cancelled Less Than a Week from Vote

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, former Foreign Minister for Afghanistan under President Hamid Karzai, and opposition in the upcoming runoff elections announced his withdrawal from the ballot today. The reason he gave for his decision was a fear that repeat-fraud and widespread unrest would transpire, similar to the heavily contested August election which cost UN Envoy Peter Galbraith his position in the country. The UN secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said clearly that his organization would continue its work and would support the government and people of Afghanistan in any way that it could.

With no contestation by Abdullah, incumbent President Karzai is set to transition into his third term as the nation’s leader since the NATO/ISAF invasion of 2001. Independent Election Commission chairman Aziz Lodin stated, “We declare Hamid Karzai, which got the majority of votes in the first round and is the only candidate for the second round of the election in Afghanistan in 2009 ... is the elected President of Afghanistan." Hamid Karzai is now free to continue his work with international governing body, coalition forces and foreign diplomats to ensure the lasting stability and peaceful development of his nation.


Telegraph.co.uk – Afghanistan election runoff cancelled
TIME - Karzai Declared President as Runoff Cancelled