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U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 10, 2015 - 32 comments

An outrage in Kunduz

The MSF (Médecins sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders) Trauma Center in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was attacked by US forces on October 3rd. The rationale for the attack remains unclear, with differing accounts being given by US officials. MSF has condemned the attack, in which at least twenty-two people were killed, and called for an independent inquiry into the bombing. [more inside]
posted by Joe in Australia on Oct 7, 2015 - 174 comments

why do empires care so much about women's clothes?

"Whether it is the covering of breasts in Southern India or the wearing of burqas in Afghanistan, women's comportment and clothing have offered an emotionally powerful shorthand for all that is wrong with native culture and all that must be corrected by the empire." Rafia Zakaria for Aeon: Clothes and daggers. [more inside]
posted by divined by radio on Sep 22, 2015 - 23 comments

The Forgotten Battalion

In Unit Stalked by Suicide, Veterans Try to Save One Another. The Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment (2/7) was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2008. During eight months of combat, the unit killed hundreds of enemy fighters and suffered more casualties than any other Marine battalion that year. When its members returned, most left the military. Seven years later, at least 13 of the 1200 members of that battalion have killed themselves in the interim: two while on active duty, the rest after they left the military. That is nearly four times the rate for young male veterans as a whole and 14 times that for all Americans. (This story discusses self-harm, suicide and suicidal ideation. Some readers may find the content disturbing.) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Sep 21, 2015 - 9 comments

The quiet death of the Human Terrain System

The Quiet Demise of the Army’s Plan to Understand Afghanistan and Iraq. "In the heyday of counterinsurgency, the United States military’s Human Terrain Teams were a bold idea. In the drone-war era, they became an anachronism." [Previously 1, 2] [more inside]
posted by homunculus on Aug 22, 2015 - 30 comments

Ghost Schools

"Over and over, the United States has touted education — for which it has spent more than $1 billion — as one of its premier successes in Afghanistan, a signature achievement that helped win over ordinary Afghans and dissuade a future generation of Taliban recruits.... ut a BuzzFeed News investigation — the first comprehensive journalistic reckoning, based on visits to schools across the country, internal U.S. and Afghan databases and documents, and more than 150 interviews — has found those claims to be massively exaggerated, riddled with ghost schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. The American effort to educate Afghanistan’s children was hollowed out by corruption and by short-term political and military goals that, time and again, took precedence over building a viable school system. And the U.S. government has known for years that it has been peddling hype."
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Jul 9, 2015 - 49 comments

War has changed

I fell in love with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain the moment I tranquillised a goat and then kidnapped it. [more inside]
posted by grobstein on Jun 11, 2015 - 42 comments

I said, hey, you’re good at combat and people need you here; why not go?

Many American, Canadian, and British military veterans opposed to the actions of ISIS in Iraq have been, individually, going over to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga for some time now, bringing thousands of dollars of military gear and irreplaceable training. There have been so many of them fighting that the Peshmerga are now actively recruiting military veterans online. Not to be internet-outdone, military veterans have begun investigating forming units of their own to fight ISIS -including notable and controversial science-fiction author John Ringo, who suggested trying to crowdfund for 'a brigade of soldiers'. [more inside]
posted by corb on May 6, 2015 - 86 comments

Skate Girls

"Forbidden from riding bikes, fearless Afghan girls are skateboarding around Kabul." The creation of Oliver Percovich, Skateistan is a grassroots project that connects youth and education through skateboarding in Afghanistan, and over 40% of their students are girls. "I realised skateboarding was a loophole. It was so new that nobody had a chance to say that girls couldn't do it yet."
posted by billiebee on Apr 27, 2015 - 17 comments

It's Been 70 Years Since A Clear US Military Victory

A war machine that costs about as much as the rest of the worlds' militaries combined just doesn't win wars anymore. Why is this, and how can such an expensive public program that obviously fails to achieve its stated goals carry on unscathed?
posted by blankdawn on Apr 10, 2015 - 116 comments

Families of the dead ultimately received $5,000 each, plus one goat.

How twenty-three innocent Afghani civilians were wiped out by self-deceiving drone operators seven and a half thousand miles away.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker on Mar 11, 2015 - 39 comments

Karzai's life is split between Baltimore and his native Afghanistan

Last September, Hamid Karzai, the outgoing president of Afghanistan, made a number of disparaging remarks about U.S. involvement in that country. “America did not want peace for Afghanistan because it had its own agendas and goals here,” he said after pointedly leaving the U.S. out of the group of countries he thanked for helping during the course of his largely U.S.-backed administration. John Oliver, the former “Daily Show” correspondent, responded on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” by reading a series of negative Yelp reviews of The Helmand, one of the four Baltimore restaurants owned by Qayum Karzai, the president’s older brother. “It was a funny joke,” Qayum says, pulling up in front of the restaurant in what he calls his “mujahideen Jeep—because you can only jump in and jump out.” “They did not do their due diligence,” he adds. “It is known to everybody that my politics is not the same as my brother. I’m sorry that [Oliver] is thinking about collective guilt. My brother is a different person.”
posted by josher71 on Mar 10, 2015 - 24 comments

The Unlikely Life of Afghanistan's First Female Taxi Driver

"The Unlikely Life of Afghanistan's First Female Taxi Driver" profiles Sara Bayahi, believed to currently be Afghanistan's only female taxi driver. That may not be the case for long, though, as she is teaching other women to drive in defiance of cultural taboos.
posted by Stacey on Mar 2, 2015 - 9 comments

"disorder ... is cheap to create, but very costly to prevent"

The Galula Doctrine: An Interview with Galula's Biographer A.A. Cohen, who wrote Galula: The Life And Writings of the French Officer Who Defined Counterinsurgency, and an excerpt. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jan 30, 2015 - 7 comments

Getting (Stuff) Out Of Afghanistan

No one in this convoy is looking for a fight. They’re mostly logistics guys, the United Van Lines of the U.S. Army. Their mission is to pack up the last of the gear from Combat Outpost Chamkani so that the place can be handed over to the Afghan army. America’s longest war is over for U.S. troops for the most part. All these guys want to do is bug on out.
posted by Chrysostom on Jan 28, 2015 - 32 comments

Adam Curtis's Bitter Lake.

Bitter Lake "is a new, adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can’t really see the world any longer." [available on the UK BBC iplayer for a month] [trailer with Curtis's preview]
posted by feelinglistless on Jan 26, 2015 - 19 comments

Rebuilding Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas

Plans are afoot to restore giant Buddhist symbols destroyed by the Taliban, but experts cannot agree on best way forward. [more inside]
posted by Elementary Penguin on Jan 20, 2015 - 29 comments

"This is our war for peace."

Since 2010, Freelance Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary has been tweeting photos with the hashtags #AfghanistanYouNeverSee and #EveryDayLifeInAghanistan showing sides of the country that rarely make it into Western media. [more inside]
posted by smoke on Jan 14, 2015 - 7 comments

With the jawbone of an ass

Modern Farmer describes centuries of military love for the humble donkey. Though the U. S. Army officially ended its pack mule program in the 1950s, current soldiers and Marines-- along with the Afghan Army itself -- have trained again to use donkeys and mules in mountainous terrain. [more inside]
posted by Hypatia on Dec 19, 2014 - 8 comments

Worse than a Defeat

The British army is back in Warminster and its other bases around the country. Its eight-year venture in southern Afghanistan is over. The extent of the military and political catastrophe it represents is hard to overstate. It was doomed to fail before it began, and fail it did, at a terrible cost in lives and money. How bad was it? In a way it was worse than a defeat, because to be defeated, an army and its masters must understand the nature of the conflict they are fighting. Britain never did understand, and now we would rather not think about it. (SLLRB)
posted by Jakey on Dec 11, 2014 - 47 comments

According to one senior official, “He wasn’t up to the job.”

President Obama will announce today that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is submitting his resignation. According to the New York Times, "The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ." [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Nov 24, 2014 - 98 comments

Human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan, paid for by US tax dollars

"We protect women and children, but these are dark-skinned men.... " [more inside]
posted by John Cohen on Nov 16, 2014 - 5 comments

As clusterfucks go....

The US has Spent $7.6 Billion to Crush the Afghan Opium Trade—and It's Doing Better Than Ever. In fact an area about the size of Rhode island is under cultivation and the US armed forces seem to have openly protected the Opium fields.
Opium is Keeping the US in Afghanistan.
Then there is also the unkown number of contractors, in excess of 108,000 last year.
A recent UNODC report estimated that about $220 billion of drug money is laundered annually through the financial system.
posted by adamvasco on Nov 12, 2014 - 43 comments

A lieutenant general's op-ed about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Lieutenant General Daniel P. Bolger, recently retired from 35 years in the US Army, reflects on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "As a general, I got it wrong."
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Nov 10, 2014 - 30 comments

Why I’m staying in Afghanistan

The Guardian talks to foreigners who've made Afghanistan home.
posted by hoyland on Nov 8, 2014 - 7 comments

Sometimes when I'm with [the boys], I feel like I'm not a girl.

The Afghan Women's National Cycling Team trains six mornings a week in the quiet predawn streets of Kabul to futher their dream of one day qualifying for and participating in the Olympics. "In a country where girls have faced acid attacks just for going to school, the dangers of doing sport in public go beyond insults or the momentary impact of a well-aimed stone." [more inside]
posted by lonefrontranger on Oct 28, 2014 - 7 comments

"When you hold a weapon, you don't cry, you just shoot."

Commander Pigeon is a collector of lost and exiled men. The quietest soldier once belonged to the Taliban. He had been captured by local police, escaped, and having heard about Commander Pigeon, walked miles to reach her home. He fell to his knees and begged for protection. She made him swear loyalty. I asked how she knew he wouldn't rebel. "I'm watching him closely," she said. "I'm converting Taliban to normal people."

Jen Percy for TNR: My Night With Afghanistan's Only Female Warlord, Commander Pigeon.
[more inside] posted by divined by radio on Oct 15, 2014 - 6 comments

Alone on the Hill

Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Lee's story is how little credit she or her constituents receive for what they got right. Even though a majority now considers the war most understood the AUMF to authorize to be a mistake; even though it has been used to justify military interventions that no one conceived of on September 14, 2001; even though there's no proof that any war-making of the last 13 years has have made us safer; even though many more Americans have died in wars of choice than have been killed in terrorist attacks; even though Lee and many of her constituents were amenable to capturing or killing the 9/11 perpetrators, not pacifists intent on ruling out any use of force; despite all of that, Representative Lee is still thought of as a fringe peacenik representing naive East Bay hippies who could never be trusted to guide U.S. foreign policy. And the people who utterly failed to anticipate the trajectory of the War on Terrorism? Even those who later voted for a war in Iraq that turned out to be among the most catastrophic in U.S. history are considered sober, trustworthy experts.
[more inside] posted by the man of twists and turns on Sep 23, 2014 - 109 comments

the difference between men and women in just one word: freedom

Bacha Posh - The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys
posted by and they trembled before her fury on Sep 9, 2014 - 9 comments

Mullahs were at mosques, teachers were in shcools...

Many of you Americans will be familiar with that certain kind of pop/country song that looks back on the good old days of yesteryear, those carefree, reckless days of mythical youth: driving Camaros, drinking Boone's Farm wine, singing the hit songs of the day, and, yeah, all that. Well, here's a song that springs from that same place in the heart, but in an Afghani version, and a wee bit more political in its message, here and there, than the American versions: it's Farhad Darya's Oo Ghaitaa, translated as "Those Were the Days".
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 7, 2014 - 13 comments

From Above

How the US Stumbled into the Drone Era [WSJ] As ubiquitous as Predators, Reapers, Global Hawks and their ilk may now seem, the U.S. actually stumbled into the drone era. Washington got into the business of using drones for counterterrorism well before 9/11—not out of any steely strategic design or master plan but out of bureaucratic frustration, bickering and a series of only half-intentional decisions.
posted by modernnomad on Jul 29, 2014 - 6 comments

"Who knows whether we'll be the next victims", they say.

"A girl has to fight for her rights from the day she's born until the day she dies", explains Nargis. She and her friends bravely spread the message of equality in a country where the hanging and beheading of women remains commonplace. Facing conservative jibes for walking out without head scarves or for driving a car, these girls must also deal with the bigger worry of random terrorist attacks: "Who knows whether we'll be the next victims", they say.
posted by katrielalex on Jul 20, 2014 - 10 comments

" . . . but women hold the power of story."

Women make up roughly half of the 42 million Pashtun people in the borderland. The kind of hardship they know is rare. Some are bought and sold, others killed for perceived slights against family honor. But this doesn’t render them passive. Most of the Pashtun women I know possess a rebellious and caustic humor beneath their cerulean burkas, which have become symbols of submission. This finds expression in an ancient form of folk poetry called landay. Two lines and 22 syllables long, they can be rather startling to the uninitiated. War, drones, sex, a husband’s manhood—these poems are short and dangerous, like the poisonous snake for which they’re named.
posted by jason's_planet on Jul 1, 2014 - 12 comments

War fatigue

The young men and women enlisting in the armed forces now were in pre-school on 9/11. "As a nation we have internalized our longest military conflict; it has suffused the social, political, and cultural body. The war is not something the nation is doing; it's simply something that is." Vox on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from Jessica Lynch to Bowe Bergdahl. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Jun 8, 2014 - 91 comments

No man left behind

Bowe Bergdahl, American Soldier, Freed by Taliban in Prisoner Trade (NYT) [more inside]
posted by ThePinkSuperhero on May 31, 2014 - 128 comments

" V.A. has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity"

This morning, the Veterans Affairs Chief Eric Shinseki tendered his resignation, following the release of an independent review detailing corruption in the reporting of wait times and scheduling practices, along with alleged patient deaths in the Phoenix Health Care system. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on May 30, 2014 - 115 comments

Not Forgotten

As discussed previously on the blue, Danny Chen died in Afghanistan not from fighting the Taliban or al Qaeda, but from suicide after prolonged abuse by his comrades. A street in Manhattan now bears his name.
posted by scaryblackdeath on May 17, 2014 - 12 comments

40 Maps of the Middle East

Forty maps that explain the Middle East. Includes sections on Middle East history, the region today, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and oil, Iraq and Libya, and "points of light." [more inside]
posted by Halloween Jack on May 6, 2014 - 8 comments

Identity Dominance: The U.S. Military’s Biometric War in Afghanistan

As part of its effort to combat insurgent forces interspersed within an indigenous population, the use of biometrics has become a central component of the U.S. war effort. Having expanded heavily since its introduction during the war in Iraq, biometric identification and tracking of individuals has become a core mission in Afghanistan with initiatives sponsored by the U.S. and Afghan governments seeking to obtain the biometric identifiers of nearly everyone in the country. [more inside]
posted by gorbweaver on Apr 23, 2014 - 4 comments

Let us now praise and mourn the wonderful photographer Anja Niedringhaus

"When you say ‘war photographer’ the first image that comes to mind is someone crazy for the bang bang. Not Anja. She was an artist. She used her sensitivity and sense of understanding to access the human side of war." In Memoriam: Anja Niedringhaus (1965—2014). Her photographs are powerful and beautiful.
posted by mareli on Apr 4, 2014 - 24 comments

"I am honor-bound to protect you, brother."

The Interpreters We Left Behind. "As our troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we're abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we'd let them in."
posted by homunculus on Mar 27, 2014 - 26 comments

Rugs of War

Afghan war rugs Traditional rug-making techniques meet contemporary political imagery. See also the 'Rugs of War' project.
posted by infini on Mar 27, 2014 - 13 comments

Girls Skating in Afghanistan

Girls Skating in Afghanistan (h/t darksilenceinsuburbia)
posted by benito.strauss on Nov 22, 2013 - 12 comments

"I will not post any casualty reports for 24 hours as I am celebrating."

The Far Post is a journalism series by Roads and Kingdoms and Sports Illustrated on global soccer culture that will run every other week until the start of "the largest theater that has ever existed in human history," the World Cup. So far there are five articles: Brazil 2014 Starts Now by Laurent Dubois gives an overview of the history of the World Cup and what it means now. Messi in Kolkata by Kanishk Tharoor is about a visit by the Argentine national team to Kolkata and the state of the game in India. Afghanistan United By May Jeong is the story of the incredible triumph of the Afghan national team at the 2013 South Asian Championship. Soccer and the Street in Istanbul by Izzy Finkel reports on the links between soccer and politics in Turkey. The Long Revolution of the Ultras Ahlawy by Patrick Kingsley is the account of how hardcore soccerfans in Egypt, at the center of the 2011 revolution, have fared in the aftermath.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 21, 2013 - 14 comments

Those years have accomplished very little.

The A-Team Killings
"Last spring, the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were dug up outside a U.S. Special Forces base – was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war?"
posted by andoatnp on Nov 6, 2013 - 16 comments

"What does the drone’s camera capture, and what does it occlude?"

The Sound of Terror: Phenomenology of a Drone Strike
Opponents of drone strikes say they violate international law and have caused unacknowledged civilian deaths. Proponents insist they actually save the lives of both U.S. soldiers, who would otherwise be deployed in dangerous ground operations, and of civilians, because of the drone’s capacity to survey and strike more precisely than combat. If the alternative is a prolonged and messy ground operation, the advantage of drone strikes in terms of casualties is indisputable, and it is not my intention to dispute it here. But the terms of this debate give a one-sided view of both the larger financial and political costs of drones, as well as the less than lethal but nonetheless chronic and intense harm continuous strikes wage on communities.
[more inside] posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 19, 2013 - 79 comments


During the communist coup and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978-1979, thousands of Afghan people disappeared. It was always suspected that most of these people had been murdered, but for many victims this couldn't be proved, which left their family in uncertainty for decades. A war crimes investigation by the International Crimes Unit of the Dutch police however turned up evidence that will end some of this uncertainty. This evidence, in the form of transport orders and death lists for some 5,000 victims has now been put online by the Dutch ministry of justice.
posted by MartinWisse on Sep 18, 2013 - 9 comments

Raucous Scene Grips Afghan Capital

Soccer Euphoria The Olympic Stadium in Kabul has not seen this big a crowd since the Taliban used the place for public executions. No coercion was needed on Thursday to bring tens of thousands of delirious fans here to greet their national soccer team on its return from winning its first international championship. The underdog team stunned India, the defending South Asian champions, in a 2-0 victory in Katmandu, Nepal.
posted by Golden Eternity on Sep 12, 2013 - 12 comments

Combat Farming

"Through my business, I worked in Afghanistan on agriculture projects designed to assist with stabilization efforts in the region. I want to share with you some of the lessons learned along with some photos. I hope these are beneficial to those of you looking into or already working on low tech, sustainable farming/gardening projects here in the states." A first-person account of working with the locals to reconnect them with the land. [more inside]
posted by MonkeyToes on Aug 9, 2013 - 12 comments

Capturing America

In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 8, 2013 - 16 comments

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