afghan war

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Democracy Now! 2013-01-28 Monday

Fruitvale" tells the story of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Bay Area resident who was shot dead by a transit police officer in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009. On Saturday, the film won both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. First-time, 26-year-old director Ryan Coogler accepted the prizes at the Sundance awards ceremony.

The documentary "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield" follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill to Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen as he chases down the hidden truth behind America’s expanding covert wars, focusing on the Obama administration’s increasing use of armed drones and secretive units including the Joint Special Operations Command. On Saturday, the film’s director, Richard Rowley, was awarded the Sundance Film Festival prize for best cinematography in a U.S. documentary, honored for "elevating the art of observational cinema through sophisticated lensing and an electric-color palette." Accepting the award, Rowley said: "Almost three years ago, when Jeremy and I knocked on a door in Gardez in rural Afghanistan, we were the first Americans that a family there had seen since Americans kicked their door in and killed half their family. And they invited us in, and they shared the most difficult story of their lifetime with us, because we promised them we’d do everything we could to make their story heard in America."

The new documentary "Running from Crazy" chronicles the life of actress Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of the great novelist Ernest Hemingway. The film focuses on Mariel’s family history of mental illness and the suicides of seven relatives, including her grandfather and her sister, Margaux. The film is directed by the two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, whose documentary "Harlan County U.S.A." has become a classic and won an Oscar in 1977. We’re joined by Mariel Hemingway and Barbara Kopple from the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

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Tags: afghan war, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey

Afghan Rockets Hit US General's Aircraft

KABUL - Insurgents fired two rockets at the main NATO airbase in Afghanistan, damaging an aircraft used by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, a NATO spokesman said on Tuesday. The general was not on board at the time.

Dempsey arrived in the country on Monday in a C-17 transport aircraft which was parked at Bagram Airbase, north of Kabul, when two rockets landed near the apron late on Monday night, slightly wounding two ground staff.

"He was nowhere near the aircraft. We think it was a lucky shot," NATO senior spokesman Colonel Thomas Collins said.

The aircraft was only being used temporarily by Dempsey and his staff. Shrapnel from the rockets also damaged a nearby helicopter.

Dempsey, who had been in the country for talks with NATO and Afghan commanders on a string of recent rogue shootings, was sleeping in his quarters when the rounds struck and left the country afterwards on another aircraft.

"No one was seriously injured in the attack," a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

Bagram, which is home to around 30,000 military and civilian personnel, is occasionally targeted with rockets and mortar shells fired by insurgents from surrounding hills and fields. In 2007, the heavily guarded base was targeted during a visit by former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney.

Sporadic attacks also occur at NATO's other main airbase in Afghanistan, Kandahar Airfield, in the volatile south, although they rarely cause deaths or major damage.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message and denied it was indirect fire, saying it was based on "accurate information". But the insurgents are often quick to claim any incidents as successes.

Before leaving Afghanistan, Dempsey met his Afghan counterpart, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, who raised the issue of insider attacks by rogue forces that have killed 10 American troops in the past two weeks.

"In the past, it's been us pushing on them to make sure they do more," he said on Monday. "This time, without prompting, when I met General Karimi, he started with a conversation about insider attacks - and, importantly, insider attacks not just against us, but insider attacks against the Afghans, too."

Officials in Kandahar on Tuesday sacked the police chief in Spin Boldak district over the weekend shooting of another NATO soldier by an Afghan police officer.

"These actions will not be tolerated. We stand by our partners," the Kandahar governor's office said in a Twitter message announcing the sacking.

Afghan authorities have promised to improve vetting of police and soldiers to curb insider attacks, while also increasing the number of intelligence officers within Afghan units to identify infiltrators and disgruntled personnel.

There have been 32 insider attacks so far this year involving 36 shooters that have led to 40 coalition deaths, just over half of them Americans. Some 69 coalition troops have been wounded. That's a sharp increase from 2011, when 35 coalition troops were killed, 24 of whom were U.S. troops during the year.

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Afghan Forces Thwart Attack

KABUL  - Afghan security forces killed five insurgents and wounded one during a pre-dawn raid in Kabul on Thursday, with authorities saying they had thwarted a mass attack and captured intelligence pointing to the militant Haqqani network.

Soldiers from Afghanistan's spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), launched the raid just after midnight, entering a single-story house compound on the fringes of Kabul which the insurgents were using as a base.

"They planned mass attacks in different parts of Kabul disguised in burqas," the NDS said in a statement, referring to the head-to-toe covering worn by many Afghan women and sometimes used by insurgents to evade detection.

Police said two insurgents escaped during a gun battle that raged for five hours around the isolated compound, where the insurgents had been amassing weapons in a newly built brick house.

The militants had three vehicles loaded with explosives and suicide-bomb vests, as well as large stores of rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, and planned to occupy a high-rise building to attack the city's business heart.

The Taliban issued a statement denying that Thursday's operation had targeted their fighters, although the insurgents often play down their defeats and inflate successes.

The NDS said target maps and telephone numbers recovered from the compound had numbers for the Haqqani network based outside Afghanistan.

Haqqani network militants, allied with the Taliban and largely based in northwest Pakistan's lawless border lands, have been blamed by NATO-led forces in Afghanistan for several high profile attacks in recent months.

Dozens of militants launched a coordinated assault in central Kabul on April 15, occupying a high-rise construction site and pounding the city's diplomatic and government centre with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire in an attack that took 18 hours to quell.

On June 22, Afghan security forces backed by foreign advisers fought a day-long battle with insurgents after a Taliban attack on a lakeside hotel on Kabul's outskirts.

But security forces and NATO-led foreign troops say the sporadic attacks do not point to weaknesses in Afghan forces and intelligence ahead of a withdrawal by most foreign combat troops to be completed by 2014.

"PROGRESS"

The United States is pressing Pakistan to step up its efforts to root out militants, in particular the Haqqanis.

Pakistan has strong traditional links with the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups but it denies accusations it uses them as proxies to gain leverage in Afghanistan ahead of any settlement to the war, or in case a civil war breaks out after foreign troops leave.

Pakistan has also long complained that the United States has overlooked its contribution to the fight against militants.

NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Allen, met Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad on Thursday to discuss cross border security in the wake of hundreds of rocket attacks in eastern Afghanistan which Afghan officials have blamed on the Pakistan army.

Pakistan has denied the accusation.

"We are making significant progress toward building a partnership that is enduring, strategic, carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of the region," Allen said in a statement after his talks.

The NATO-led force in Afghanistan has acknowledged an 11 percent spike in attacks over the past three months since the start of the summer fighting period, although overall the number of foreign soldiers killed is down on last year.

Eighty-five were killed in June and July against 119 over the same period last year.

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Tags: afghan war, date of departure from afghanistan

Kabul Backs Chicago Deal

People in Afghanistan were surprisingly optimistic on Tuesday about NATO's plan to pull combat troops out of their war-ravaged nation by the end of 2014, but warned Western leaders to stick to aid and security promises.

A Chicago summit meeting of the 28-member bloc, attended also by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other world leaders, endorsed an exit strategy on Monday that calls for handing control of Afghanistan to its own security forces by the middle of next year.

But it left unanswered questions about how to prevent a slide into chaos and a Taliban resurgence after the pullout.

Despite the sense of combat fatigue in Chicago and frustration that nearly 11 years of military engagement had failed to defeat Taliban Islamists, Afghans were surprisingly upbeat. They said the agreement showed Western nations would not abandon their nation after a decade-long war and a massive aid and reconstruction effort.

"I don't think foreign nations will leave us as easily as they say. The international community has spent billions of dollars here now," said university student Tawab, speaking to Reuters at a park near a mosque in central Kabul.

"The conference has decided that some foreign forces will stay in Afghanistan, so it's like back-up support."

Housing prices in Kabul have jumped 15 percent since U.S. President Barack Obama, who declared on Monday that the 10-year war was "effectively over", visited Kabul to sign a long-term security deal with Karzai on May 2.

Donor nations have been negotiating agreements with Karzai's government committing to ongoing aid and reconstruction support, as well as government and agricultural advisers, for at least a decade beyond the two-year NATO drawdown ending in 2014.

Since a U.S-led coalition helped Afghan forces topple the Taliban government in late 2001, Afghanistan has been one of the world's largest aid recipients, with more than US$57 billion spent on development to help counter support for insurgents.

In volatile southern Helmand province, one of the most violent parts of the country and the scene of several major clashes between the Taliban and Western troops, villagers said their lives had improved.

AND NOW WE HAVE A HEALTH CLINIC

Ezatullah, a shopkeeper in the town of Marjah where NATO troops fought one of the bloodiest battles of the war, said a 35-km (22-mile) paved road connecting to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah had nearly been completed, cutting costs and travel time to prevent vital food supplies spoiling in the area's searing summer heat.

"And now we have a health clinic built three years ago which provides most services to people. But still people are facing problems, as it's not enough. There should be at least a clinic in every big village," he said.

Security had also improved since 15,000 U.S. and British surge troops ousted around 2,000 insurgents from the area, said Marjah resident Nisar Ahmad, draining support from the Taliban.

"Now this district is fully protected by Afghan Local Police. Almost all of our schools are open and boys and girls attend schools. But we still face a lack of electricity despite the billions of dollars spent," Ahmad said.

In the Arghandab district of neighboring Kandahar province - where U.S. troops suffered heavy casualties in 2010 - local resident Hajji Shah Mohammad Ahmadi said economic progress had been spurred by roads, schools and new health clinics.

And even in restive eastern provinces, where Western troops are still fighting to choke off insurgent supply routes across the mountainous Pakistan border in one of the last major offensives of the war, local people counted improvements.

Abdul Naser, from Chapa Dara district in Kunar, said where once there had been no roads, water canals, electricity, schools, clinics or security, now there was vehicle traffic, power generators, doctors and education.

"We got two clinics during the past months with female doctors. We have paved roads. But some projects were not well built and people still face some security threats," he said.

However, an April poll by the privately-run Tolo TV channel found just over 50 percent of Afghans though civil war would break out again after foreign troops withdrew, while 26 percent saw no change and 23 percent thought security would improve.

Still, property dealers in the capital Kabul - once convulsed by civil war but where cars have now replaced bicycles and some high-rise apartment buildings have sprung up - say business is thriving despite worries.

"People's morale and economic morale have gone up," said Mohammad Nader Faizyaar, the owner of the high-end Faisal Business Centre mall that retails everything from women's fashion accessories to furniture.

"People feel that the future of this country is stable and everyone can hopefully invest."

Sarwar Akbari, 38, a Kabul resident in the Wazir diplomatic district, said international backers had to now honor their promises not to abandon the country amid pressure on aid budgets, particularly in cash-strapped Europe. He also said they had to reach some kind of agreement with the Taliban.

"If they don't fulfill their promises, and if they don't stop neighboring countries from interfering in Afghanistan and reach a peace with the Taliban, then this conference and any others will be useless," he said.

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The Afghan Syndrome

Take off your hat. Taps is playing. Almost four decades late, the Vietnam War and its post-war spawn, the Vietnam Syndrome, are finally heading for their American grave.  It may qualify as the longest attempted burial in history.  Last words -- both eulogies and curses -- have been offered too many times to mention, and yet no American administration found the silver bullet that would put that war away for keeps.

Richard Nixon tried to get rid of it while it was still going on by “Vietnamizing” it.  Seven years after it ended, Ronald Reagan tried to praise it into the dustbin of history, hailing it as “a noble cause.”  Instead, it morphed from a defeat in the imperium into a “syndrome,” an unhealthy aversion to war-making believed to afflict the American people to their core.

A decade later, after the U.S. military smashed Saddam Hussein’s army in Kuwait in the First Gulf War, George H.W. Bush exulted that the country had finally “kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.”  As it turned out, despite the organization of massive “victory parades” at home to prove that this hadn't been Vietnam redux, that war kicked back.  Another decade passed and there were H.W.’s son W. and his advisors planning the invasion of Iraq through a haze of Vietnam-constrained obsessions.

W.’s top officials and the Pentagon would actually organize the public relations aspect of that invasion and the occupation that followed as a Vietnam opposite’s game -- no “body counts” to turn off the public, plenty of embedded reporters so that journalists couldn’t roam free and (as in Vietnam) harm the war effort, and so on.  The one thing they weren’t going to do was lose another war the way Vietnam had been lost.  Yet they managed once again to bog the U.S. military down in disaster on the Eurasian mainland, could barely manage to win a heart or a mind, and even began issuing body counts of the enemy dead.

“We don’t do body counts,” General Tommy Franks, Afghan War commander, had insisted in 2001, and as late as November 2006, the president was still expressing his irritation about Iraq to a group of conservative news columnists this way: “We don’t get to say that -- a thousand of the enemy killed or whatever the number was.  It’s happening.  You just don’t know it.”  The problem, he explained, was: “We have made a conscious effort not to be a body count team” (à la Vietnam).  And then, of course, those body counts began appearing.

Somehow, over the endless years, no matter what any American president tried, The War --that war -- and its doppelganger of a syndrome, a symbol of defeat so deep and puzzling Americans could never bear to fully take it in, refused to depart town.  They were the ghosts on the battlements of American life, representing -- despite the application of firepower of a historic nature -- a defeat by a small Asian peasant land so unexpected that it simply couldn’t be shaken, nor its “lessons” learned.

National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was typical at the time in dismissing North Vietnam in disgust as “a little fourth rate power,” just as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Thomas Moorer would term it “a third-rate country with a population of less than two counties in one of the 50 states of the United States.”  All of which made its victory, in some sense, beyond comprehension.

A Titleholder for Pure, Long-Term Futility

That was then.  This is now and, though the frustration must seem familiar, Washington has gotten itself into a situation on the Eurasian mainland so vexing and perplexing that Vietnam has finally been left in the dust.  In fact, if you hadn’t noticed -- and weirdly enough no one has -- that former war finally seems to have all but vanished.

If you care to pick a moment when it first headed for the exits, when we all should have registered something new in American consciousness, it would undoubtedly have been mid-2010 when the media decided that the Afghan War, then 8½ years old, had superseded Vietnam as “the longest war” in U.S. history.  Today, that claim has become commonplace, even though it remains historically dubious (which may be why it’s significant).

Afghanistan is, in fact, only longer than Vietnam if you decide to date the start of the American war there to 1964, when Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (in place of an actual declaration of war), or 1965, when American “combat troops” first arrived in South Vietnam.  By then, however, there were already 16,000 armed American “advisors” there, Green Berets fighting there, American helicopters flying there.  It would be far more reasonable to date America’s war in Vietnam to 1961, the year of its first official battlefield casualty and the moment when the Kennedy administration sent in 3,000 military advisors to join the 900 already there from the Eisenhower years. (The date of the first American death on the Vietnam Wall, however, is 1956, and the first American military man to die in Vietnam -- an American lieutenant colonel mistaken by Vietnamese guerrillas for a French officer -- was killed in Saigon in 1945.) 

Of course, massive U.S. support for the French version of the Vietnam War in the early 1950s could drive that date back further.  Similarly, if you wanted to add in America’s first Afghan War, the CIA-financed anti-Soviet war of the mujahideen from 1980 to 1989, you might once again have a “longest war” competition.

The essential problem in dating wars these days is that we no longer declare them, so they just tend to creep up on us.  In addition, because undeclared war has melded into something like permanent war on the American scene, we might well be setting records every day on the Eurasian mainland -- if, for instance, you care to include the First Gulf War and the continuedmilitary actions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which, after 2001, blended into the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, its invasion of Afghanistan, and then, of course, Iraq (again).

For those who want a definitive “longest,” however, the latest news is promising.  Obama administration negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government are reportedly close to complete. The two sides are expected to arrive at a“strategic partnership” agreement leaving U.S. forces (trainers, advisors, special operations troops, and undoubtedly scads of private contractors) ensconced on bases in Afghanistan well beyond 2014.  If such official desire becomes reality, then the Vietnam record might indeed be at an end.

What’s important, however, isn’t which war holds the record, but that media urge in 2010 to anoint Afghanistan the titleholder for pure long-term futility.  In retrospect, that represented a changing-of-the-guard moment.

Now, skip ahead almost two years and consider what’s missing in action today.  After all, dealing with the Afghan War in Vietnam-analogy terms right now would be like lining up ducks at a shooting gallery.  Just take a run through the essential Vietnam War checklist: there’s “quagmire” (check!); dropping the idea of winning “hearts and minds” (check!); the fact that we’ve entered the “Afghanization” phase of the war, with endless rosy prognostications about, followed by grim reports on, the training of the Afghan army to replace U.S. combat troops (check!).

There are those sagging public opinion polls about the war, dropping steadily into late-Vietnam territory (check!); the continued insistence of American military officials that “progress” is being made in the face of disaster and disintegration (not quite “light at the end of the tunnel” territory, but nonetheless a check! for sure).

There are those bomb-able, or in our era drone-able, “sanctuaries” across the border (check!); American massacre stories, most recently a one-man version of My Lai (check!); a prickly leader who irritates his American counterparts and is seen as an obstacle to success (check!), and so on -- and on and on.

While the Afghan War has always had its many non-Vietnam aspects -- geographical, historical, geopolitical, and in terms of casualties -- anyone could have had a Vietnam field day with the present situation.  At almost any previous moment in the last decades, many undoubtedly would have, and yet what’s striking is that this time around no one has.  Unlike any administration since the Nixon years, nobody in Obama’s crowd now seems to have Vietnam obsessively on the brain.

What was taken as the last significant reference to the war from a major official came from Bush holdover Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  In February 2011, four months before he left the Pentagon, Gates gave a “farewell” address at West Point in which he told the cadets, “[I]n my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”  This, press reports incorrectly claimed, was that general’s Vietnam advice for President Kennedy in 1961.  (The statement Gates quoted, however, was made in 1950 after the North Koreans invaded South Korea.)

A Vietnam Analogy Memorial

Since then, Washington generally seems to have dropped Vietnam through the memory hole.  Well-connected pundits seldom mention its example any more.  Critics have generally stopped using it to anathematize the ongoing war in Afghanistan.  In a wasteland of growing disasters, that war now seems to have gained full recognition as a quagmire in its own right. No help needed.

And yet I did find one recent exception to the general rule.  Let me offer it here as my own memorial to the Vietnam analogy. Recently in a news briefing, U.S. war commander in Afghanistan General John Allen tried to offer context for a phenomenon that seems close to unique in modern history. (You might have to go back to the Sepoy Rebellion in British India of the nineteenth century to find its like.)  Afghan “allies” in police or army uniforms have been continually blasting away American and NATO soldiers they live and work with -- something now common enough to have its own military term: “green on blue” violence.  In doing so, Allen made a passing comment that might be thought of as the last Vietnam War analogy of our era.  “I think it is a characteristic of counterinsurgencies that we've experienced before,” he said.  “We experienced these in Iraq.  We experienced them in Vietnam... It is a characteristic of this kind of warfare.”

How appropriate that, almost 40 years later, the general, who was still attending the U.S. Naval Academy when Vietnam ended, evidently remembers that war about as accurately as he might recall the War of 1812.  In fact, Vietnamese allies did not regularly, or even rarely, turn their guns on their American allies.  In the far more “fratricidal” acts of that era, what might then have been termed “khaki on khaki” violence, the “Afghans” of the moment were American troops who reasonably regularly committed acts of violence -- called “fragging” for the fragmentation grenades of the period -- against their own officers.  (“Word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies or in bivouacs of certain units,” wrote Marine historian Col. Robert Heinl, Jr., in 1971.  “In one such division... fraggings during 1971 have been authoritatively estimated to be running about one a week.”)

Still, credit must be given.  Increasingly poorly remembered, Vietnam is now one for the ages.  After so many years, Afghanistan has finally emerged as a quagmire beholden to no other war.  What an achievement!  Our moment, Afghanistan included, has proven so extreme, so disastrous, that it’s finally put the unquiet ghost of Vietnam in its grave.  And here’s the miracle: it has all happened without anyone in Washington grasping the essence of that now-ancient defeat, or understanding a thing.

The “lessons of Vietnam,” fruitlessly discussed for five decades, taught Washington so little that it remains trapped in a hopeless war on the Eurasian mainland, continues to pursue a military-first policy globally that might even surprise American leaders of the Vietnam era, has turned the planet into a “free fire zone,” and considers military power its major asset, a first not a last resort, and the Pentagon the appropriate place to burn its national treasure.

After Vietnam, the U.S. at least took a few years to lick its wounds.  Now, it just ramps up the latest military flavor of the month -- at the moment, special operations forces and drones -- elsewhere.

Call it not the fog, but the smog of war.

And in case you haven’t noticed, the vans are already on the block.  The Afghan Syndrome is moving into the neighborhood and the welcome wagons are out.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here. Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of "The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's" as well as "The End of Victory Culture," runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, "The United States of Fear" (Haymarket Books), has just been published

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Tags: afghan war, barack obama, hamid karzai

Murders Overwhelm Diplomacy

President Hamid Karzai exploded in anger when he learned last week that an American soldier had massacred 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children.

When Karzai discovered that an aide had kept the news from him until after he had addressed the nation on television, the anger turned to rage.

"I would have condemned this openly to my people," Karzai shouted at the aide in the Kabul television studio, officials told Reuters.

Turning to another official, Karzai made himself even more clear: After a decade of war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, it was time for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan, he said.

Events may have got out of hand if the aide had indeed told Karzai before the live televised speech on women's rights.

By the time Karzai's office issued a statement about the killing near a U.S. base in the south, the reaction was muted and there was no call for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Karzai condemned the rampage as "intentional murders" and demanded an explanation from the United States, but nothing more.

He has slim room for maneuver in a war that has tested both his presidency and that of his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama. Installed by the United States as interim leader after U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, he has to walk a line between growing public anger over the presence of Western troops and Washington's support of his government.

Karzai was later elected president but his very survival hinges on the 90,000 American troops who hold his Taliban enemies at bay, along with the massive influx of Western aid that pays Afghan bureaucrats and which keeps the country's fragile economy afloat.

The Afghan leader is still haunted by the fate of former Afghan president Mohammad Najibullah when the Taliban took power in 1996. After being tortured and castrated, Najibullah, a protege of the former Soviet Union, was strung up on a street lamp close to his palace.

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Democracy Now! Friday, March 16, 2012

We speak with journalist Neil Shea, who has reported on Afghanistan and Iraq since 2006 for Stars and Stripes and other publications. Shea discusses his experiences witnessing disturbing behavior during his travels with U.S. troops in Afghanistan and offers insight into understanding the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians. "When we cycle our soldiers and marines through these wars that don’t really have a clear purpose over years and years...we expect light-switch control over their aggression," Shea says. "We expect to be able to turn them into killers and then turn them back into winners of hearts and minds. And when you do that to a man or a woman over many years, that light-switch control begins to fray."

Amid U.S. vows to stay in Afghanistan until 2014, we speak with Afghan businesswoman Rangina Hamidi, who argues the U.S. presence there makes the security situation worse. "If the U.S. soldiers cannot do their job, as we are now seeing even more evidence of that philosophy, then I think it is only fair to ask them to leave," Hamidi says. After residing in the United States, Hamidi returned to her native Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Just this year, she came back to the United States due to the deteriorating safety situation in her homeland. Hamidi disagrees with the argument that the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan improves the safety of women.

Afghan businesswoman Rangina Hamidi remembers the late award-winning photographer Paula Lerner, who has died of breast cancer at the age of 52. Lerner was the principal photographer for the Emmy Award-winning project, "Behind the Veil: An Intimate Journey into the Lives of Kandahar’s Women Featuring Photography." "Even though she’s physically gone, I would urge more Americans to get involved the way Paula did, because Paula connected with the Afghan people — and, of course, there were women, but you can do that with the men, as well — on a level that none of the international military forces that have been there for more than 10 years could connect," Hamidi says. "Paula put behind all or any pre-notions of what Afghans are and really just gave her soul to the people by being present on a day-to-day, second-to-second basis and not being judgmental about what Afghans were or how Afghans are."

In a new film, psychologist and filmmaker Jan Haaken embeds with military therapists in Afghanistan and at their training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord — where the alleged U.S. shooter of Afghan civilians is from. Lewis-McChord has a controversial record of addressing mental health problems, including high rates of suicides, domestic violence and homicides by soldiers. It was also home to the notorious "kill team," a group of soldiers who murdered Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies. Haaken’s forthcoming documentary, "Mind Zone: Therapists Behind the Front Lines," shows the ethical dilemmas faced by therapists in Afghanistan who guide soldiers through the trauma of war. "The military has relied quite extensively on therapists to kind of help hold people together psychologically in war zones," Haaken says. "But they have to show that they are efficiency multipliers, force multipliers — in other words, that they can help the military get more out of their fatigued assets."

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Democracy Now! Monday, March 12, 2012

We go to Kabul to speak with an Afghan peace activist about the shooting spree by a U.S. Army sergeant in Afghanistan, which killed 16 Afghan civilians, nine of them children. The anger provoked by the U.S. soldier’s attack on 16 Afghan civilians comes amidst outrage over civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes and a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. We go to Japan to speak with Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of the Kyoto-based group Green Action, as Japan marks the first anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that left approximately 20,000 dead or missing and triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Obama administration is backing an expansion of nuclear power plants, but have the lessons of Fukushima been learned? We speak to former nuclear industry executive Arne Gundersen on the fallout from Fukushima, the design failures of the Mark I nuclear reactor used at Fukushima and many U.S. power plants, the economics of nuclear energy and the battle over nuclear power in his home state of Vermont. Democracy Now!, a daily independent newshour

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