This week I learned on the longest summer break ever:
- That Ayesha’s doing fine
- General Allen wants to help the Afghans do more with less
- Pakistan’s fully on board the piece train
- Some folks take a unique approach to the conjugal visit
- How to see Afghanistan on a budget
1. Ayesha’s finally getting her surgery.
For as long as the world has known her face, it has told a story.
In the beginning, when her disfigured image appeared
on the August 2010 cover of Time magazine, the story was bigger than her. It symbolized the oppression of Afghan women.
Today, Aesha Mohammadzai’s face tells a story that is hers alone.
Her forehead has ballooned to the size of a baseball, and narrow, darkened, peeling and drooping flesh protrudes from where her nose once was — before her Taliban husband and in-laws cut it off. She is six months into multistage reconstructive surgery, and her face hints at a new path lined with resilience, hope and change.
Aesha is not ashamed to show it off.
“I don’t care. Everybody has some kind of problem,” she says, with the help of a translator. “At the beginning, I was very scared. I was scared to look at my face in the mirror. … I was scared to think what will happen in the future to me. But now I’m not scared anymore.”
Aesha, who didn’t grow up celebrating birthdays but believes she’s 21 or 22, is being treated by doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She is scheduled to undergo her fourth surgery on Monday, a procedure that will take about eight hours. If all goes as planned, she may be halfway done with her medical odyssey and on track to have the nose she wants by next summer.
Of course you remember Ayesha, don’t you? The girl who was on the cover of Time a while back? I know that since then KK’s pregnant, no one was playing hockey for a while (NHL! NHL!), and we almost ran off the fiscal cliff like pigs fleeing from the Jesus, but I’m sure we’ve all kept our minds on this young lady.
In case you haven’t, Ayesha was the poster child for all that’s wrong with Afghanistan for quite a while. Fortunately, someone has the time to pay attention to things that happen to people, and in this case that someone works for CNN. Jessica Ravitz has been following this story, belaboring under the assumption that someone might be interested in what’s happened to an Afghan girl who didn’t have the foresight to get her picture taken with Ambassador Crocker. If only she was a Muppet, she’d have gotten that photo op.
2. General Allen gives us some very American troop numbers.
From the Wall Street Journal, some numbers:
Gen. Allen has proposed maintaining a force between 6,000 and 15,000 U.S. troops to conduct training and counterterrorism efforts when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission formally concludes at the end of 2014, officials said. In contrast, the U.S. maintains no residual force in Iraq, a situation that has been blamed for instability in that country.
Bootstraps, ‘merica! That’s what we’re known for…pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. If there’s anything we can pass on to the Afghan people, it’s that they need to learn how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. First, we need to make sure they have boots, and then add some straps to those boots, but nothing says “capacity building” like turning a country over to its own security force. Whether it’s truly ready or not isn’t all that important. The important thing is, they’re in charge.
All of those numbers are considerably lower than how many the Kagans think should stay here.
A U.S. force of 10,000 to 15,000 would have its limits, said Kimberly Kagan and Frederick Kagan, defense analysts who have advised the military command in Afghanistan. Such a force would have to set aside Afghan training operations to focus on counterterrorism efforts, they said. Such a narrow focus, though, could hamper a deal with Kabul, which doesn’t view al Qaeda as a direct threat.
And nothing says “you’re doing it wrong” like breaking ranks with the Kagans. Petraeus, after all, was a huge fan, and his choices with regard to COIN are truly unparalleled among commanders in Afghanistan.
So the Afghan Army’s going to be just fine…those few thousand troops are just going to be here to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Under no circumstances will they be here to help Afghan special operations forces, or cross the border into Pakistan: they’re just here to advise.
3. Pakistan let some Taliban out of prison.
It’s the spring, so these kinds of stories are pretty much inevitable:
Pakistan released eight members of the Afghan Taliban from prison on Monday, including Nooruddin Turabi, the former justice minister under the Taliban, in a bid to aid the peace process in neighboring Afghanistan, the government said. Pakistan is seen as vital to efforts to bring about peace in Afghanistan as foreign troops plan to depart the country in 2014. It was not clear what role the eight released prisoners might play in moving Taliban leaders to the negotiating table or what links they might have to the group’s current leadership. In November, Pakistan released 18 prisoners at the request of the Afghan High Peace Council, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in its statement. In early December it promised to release more prisoners.
Good news: the ISI isn’t trying to blow up this ‘stan anymore, and really want to help the US come to a peace agreement. Or it’s a craven gesture toward hoping that the TTP et al won’t make their way to Islamabad and assume control of the country as the Paki overlords they probably aspire to be. But it’s at least a step in the right direction toward a long-term peace agreement here in Afghanistan. Either that, or it’s “get out of jail in Pakistan” day. Thanks, Idiocracy!
4. I can think of better things to do on a conjugal visit.
For the record, I hate stories like this.
An Afghan prisoner serving 20 years for murdering his in-laws is now suspected of strangling his young bride during a conjugal visit.
Din Mohammad, who is serving his sentence at a prison in the northern Samangan Province, is accused by police of killing his wife when she visited him on January 1. Mohammad was convicted in 2009 of killing his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law during a bloody rampage.
But why? Why kill his wife now? It’s been three years that he’s been in prison.
“His wife used to visit him every five days or so,” he said. “Recently, [Mohammad’s] mother told him that his wife was having an illicit affair. So, during her visit to the prison — family are allowed to visit for about one hour at a time — Mohammad took the opportunity to strangle her.”
Mohammad’s mother, whose name has not been released, was detained late on January 1 as she attempted to leave the city, according to the police chief, and is being held for questioning.
So basically we’ve got the Afghan Mrs. Bates. It’s stories like this that make for grave concern for the future of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Or for the continuation of conjugal visits. Either way: not sure it’s a commentary so much on Afghan society as it is on the fact that some folks just don’t belong in what we’d all refer to as polite society.
5. 2013, we have your Darwin Award winners already.
Strapped for cash? Want someone else to plan your itinerary? How about getting yourself kidnapped? So this happened.
The family of an ailing, pregnant American woman missing in Afghanistan with her Canadian husband has broken months of silence over the mysterious case, making public appeals for the couple’s safe return.
James Coleman, the father of 27-year-old Caitlan Coleman, told The Associated Press over the weekend that she was due to deliver in January and needed urgent medical attention for a liver ailment that required regular checkups. He said he and his wife, Lyn, last heard from their son-in-law Josh on Oct. 8 from an Internet cafe in what Josh described as an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan. The Colemans asked that Josh be identified by his first name only to protect his privacy.
Before all you hyphenated types get all huffy about how your country’s the gem of the tourism ocean, let’s be clear on where they were going:
According to Hazrat Janan, the head of the provincial council in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, the two were abducted in Wardak in an area about 40 kilometers west of the capital Kabul. They were passing through Wardak while traveling from Ghazni province south of Kabul to the capital.
Yes, you should take your pregnant wife to Wardak. Particularly if she has a medical condition. By way of Ghazni. Given the current security situation in Afghanistan that’s kind of like swimming through the piranhas to get to the sharks. Reading the backstory on this, it’s the classic boy meets girl/boy and girl spend a lot of time wearing backpacks/boy and girl make a whole bunch of super smart decisions and end up getting kidnapped in Afghanistan.
I know, I know: my wife’s reading this right now and wishing we’d honeymooned in the Central African Republic. Or asked the Zetas if they need any help setting up their coal mining operations. Sorry, honey, if I’d known about Afghanistan then we’d have skipped out on the cruise.
Until next time, stay on the sunny side!