From Foreign Policy's The Cable blog, Nov. 15:
The next commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is prepared to testify that he wants to see a robust U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, as U.S. and Afghan negotiators began formal work on that troop presence Thursday in Kabul.
Wow. We called out Obama's Peace Prize in 2009 as Orwellian, but the Nobel committee have now sent the irony-meter into full tilt. An appropriately exasperated commentary in Spain's El Diario, wryly titled "That Which the Nobel Prize Calls Peace," states: "The Nobel Prize goes to a European Union being ruled for the banks and financial power, at the expense of the increasing asphyxiation of the people: In Spain the misery index has already reached 26.4%... In Greece, operations are being denied to cancer patients who have lost their health coverage and cannot afford treatment. There are growing cases of diseases such as tuberculosis. Public hospitals limit the supply of vital medicines, and are denying care to the needy..." And the debacle that Euro-unification has become is actually causing a bitter divide in Europe—not this time between Germany and France, but between Germany and the Mediterranean nations of Greece, Spain and Portugal—where a new austerity budget sparked angry protests yesterday, AP notes. And we should probably add Italy, where students clashed with police in protests against austerity measures nearly across the country, Reuters reported Oct. 4. Greek protesters against German-led budgetary whip-lashing have been quick to recall that their country was occupied by the Nazis in World War II, reopening old wounds—even as a Greek neo-fascist movement has emerged to exploit the misery with the usual bogus populism that scapegoats immigrants, leading to a wave of violent attacks. Wow, what an astonishing advance for world peace the European Union represents!
Malala Yousafzai has been moved to a hospital in Rawalpindi, the military administrative center outside Islamabad, and we are told the next 24 hours are critical for her survival. News media in Pakistan and the Subcontinent are expressing the widespread awe at her heroism and disgust at the cowardly attempt on her life. Islamabad's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar called the shooting a "wake up call" that could represent a "turning point" for the nation, Pakistan's Express-Tribune reports. An editorial in India's Hindustan Times hails her as "the braveheart who took on the Taliban." Pakistan's Dawn newspaper calls her a "symbol of courage," and its columnist Syed Fazl-e-Haider has an op-ed in the New York Times, entitled "Malala Has Won."
Young Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who was attacked by Pakistani Taliban on Oct. 9 at Mingora in the Swat Valley, is fighting for her life in a Peshawar hospital and will be sent abroad for urgent medical treatment following emergency surgery. The 14-year-old girl was shot in the head by gunmen who waited outside her school, and then followed her on to the bus. Two other children were injured in the attack. Malala, like her father, has been a vocal advocate of girls' rights to education—making them both a target of local Taliban militants. Speaking from an undisclosed location, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told reporters that the TTP accepts responsibility of the attack, accusing Malala of "promoting Western culture" and "secular" thought among the youth of the area. He also pointed out that she had recently expressed her admiration for Barack Obama. "This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter," he said.
Hundreds of Pakistanis, joined by dozens of activists from the US, on Oct. 6 launched a motorcade "march" against US drone strikes that they hope will reach the Afghan border region in the South Waziristan tribal area. The march—actually, a long vehicle convoy—is being led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star-turned-politician and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) party. The American activists are from the US-based anti-war group Code Pink. Authorities say the foreigners will not allowed into the tribal areas, and warn that the Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack the march (presumably because of the PTI's moderate—although not secularist—politics). But Khan implied that the government had created the threat. "I condemn the hypocrisy of the government, who tried their best to make this march fail," Khan told around 5,000 supporters at a rally along the way. "They are saying that Taliban have sent nine suicide attackers. If [President Asif Ali] Zardari sends even a 100 suicide attackers this march will not stop."
A Sept. 30 checkpoint shooting in eastern Afghanistan's Wardak province brought the US military's death toll in the war past 2,000, by official count. A report by the Brookings Institution (PDF) estimates that 40.2% of US deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices and 30.3% by gun attacks. The independent organization iCasualties estimates a higher US death toll, recording 2,125 to date. This same source reports 1,066 deaths of non-US coalition troops in Afghanistan. (BBC News, Sept. 30) Note that the US military death toll reached 1,000 in 2010—a grim indication of how the rate of US casualties is growing. The death toll for Afghan civilians last year alone topped 3,000—lives claimed by both insurgent and coalition forces. Afghan civilian death (at that point mostly at the hands of US bombardment) topped 3,000 by the end of 2001. The figure, poetically, is the same as the death toll from 9-11.
Well, exactly what we feared is happening. Protests against the stupid Islamophobic "film" spread to Afghanistan Sept. 16, with hundreds of students from Kabul University marching, blocking roads and chanting "death to America!" There was no violence, but protesters in Herat burned a US flag and pictures of Barack Obama. (AFP, Sept. 16) Meanwhile, the Taliban launched an audacious attack on a British base, Camp Bastion in Helmand province, killing two US Marines there—and astutely claimed they were doing it in retaliation for the stupid "film." "The aim of this attack was revenge against Americans for the anti-Prophet movie," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf said. (Radio Australia, Sept. 16; VOA, Sept. 15)
On Sept. 11, just one day after the prison at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul was officially handed over the Afghan forces, the air base came under insurgent fire, destroying a NATO Chinook CH-47 transport helicopter. Days earlier, four teen-age youths riding skateboards in Kabul were among six killed in a suicide bombing in central Kabul. The attack may have targeted the nearby NATO headquarters, but the youths were part of a nonprofit program that runs a skateboard school for Kabul kids, called Skateistan. (LAT, Sept. 12; NYT, CSM, Sept. 11; CBS, Sept. 10)