Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I had a talk with one of my friends working in Kabul on Saturday and he said the city looked so serene, covered with a blanket of snow. I recall fondly the three winters I spent in Afghanistan between 1993-96 and having snow fights with children in my street, and being caught out with the term "Barfi." I was disappointed to read this morning the extract below from the BBC saying that President Barack Obama has authorised the deployment of up to 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan, saying they are to "meet urgent security needs". I sincerely hope he has made the right call but as I have said for more than three decades, " foreign intervention in Afghanistan only delays Afghans sorting out their own problem in their own way.. In 1953 Ho Chi Minh defeated the French in Vietnam, yet foreign intervention for the next 22 years only delayed the inevitable; Vietnam sorting out its own challenges. Did the Americans learn from the French mistakes in Vietnam ? Did The Soviets learn from the US mistakes in Vietnam ? Did the US learn from the 3 wars Britain fought against Afghanistan and the mistakes of the Soviet Union ? No !
As Joan Baez sang " When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn ?"
The BBC said" "Two brigades - one army and one marine - are to be sent, Mr Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
This first major troop deployment under Mr Obama comes as his administration reviews US policy in Afghanistan.
The troops are to be sent before warmer weather brings an expected increase in fighting, defence officials said.
The deployment will be made up of 8,000 marines, and 4,000 army soldiers, plus another 5,000 support staff.
The US already has about 14,000 troops serving with a Nato-led mission. There are also 19,000 US troops under sole US command charged with fighting Taleban and al-Qaeda insurgents.
US commanders in Afghanistan have requested 30,000 additional troops.
The increase "is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan," Mr Obama said.
"The Taleban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe-haven along the Pakistani border," he said.
Afghanistan, he said, "has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires".
He said the deployment was made possible by the upcoming drawdown of US troop numbers in Iraq.
The announcement came after the UN said that the number of civilians killed in the conflict in Afghanistan rose by 39% last year.
Militants were to blame for 55% of the 2,118 civilian deaths, while US, Nato and Afghan forces were responsible for 39%, according to the UN report - the highest number since the Taleban were ousted in 2001.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Here is a poem I wrote in 1976 when I was working in Afghanistan after a huge earthquake in Khulm, near Samangan.
Whisper wind, whisper highe.
Over mosaic dome and silver spire
Blow on in a peaceful hush,
Don't disturb the Hindu Kush
Whisper wind, whisper loud
Through stormy and knotted clouds
Twist back the timeless desert sands
To Alexander, Chengis Khan and Timurlane
Tell us wind, tell us all
Of those long and desperate wars
Thrice the British tried to part
Your lands beneath the Khyber Pass
Tell us wind, tell us more
Of home-forged guns, knives and swords
Restricting all foreign powers
Always free as almond flowers
Whisper wind, whisper proud
Landlocked people, women under shroud
Bearded men of determination
Children working for a nation
Whisper wind, whisper higher
To a faith rid of earthly desire
And to Allah absolute
Whisper wind of these truths
Samanghan, April 1976
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