This week in Afghanistan:
- Kam Air’s taking folks higher than ever
- Big trouble in little Kunduz
- Dostum’s three amigos ride again
- ISAF’s trading places with the ANA
- Why more dead Afghans are a sign of progress
Since I likes the films, here’s the five movie titles that sum up this last week in Afghanistan. At least from my wobbly perch on top of my ivory tower amongst the cheap seats.
1.Snakes on a Plane
OK, technically it was dope on a plane, but so help me, I’m gonna make a Samuel L. Jackson reference, even it was for a truly awful film. That I never saw, but I know people who wear the t-shirts. Ironically, of course. Of course, some of those same people wear Marc Ecko Boba Fett hoodies.
Since apparently Kam Air wasn’t terribly happy with the money it was making from just flying passengers, and realizing that the world’s addicts need their heroin, the Wall Street Journal did a stellar piece of reporting on the entrepreneurial Good Samaritans at Afghanistan’s largest private airline, who were smuggling large quantities of the stuff out of the country. And, like Jackson’s weariness over snakes, the US is tired of drugs on planes.
The U.S. military has blacklisted Afghanistan’s largest private airline, alleging it is smuggling “bulk” quantities of opium on civilian flights to Tajikistan, a corridor through which the drugs reach the rest of the world.Kam Air was barred this month from receiving U.S. military contracts by U.S. Central Command chief Marine Gen. James Mattis, according to U.S. military officials.
“The U.S. will not do business with those who fund and support illicit activities,” U.S. Army Maj.-Gen. Richard Longo, the commander of Task Force 2010, a coalition anticorruption unit, said in an interview. “Kam Air is too large of a company not to know what has been going on within its organization.”
Kam Air, which denied the charges, is the first major Afghan company to be penalized by the U.S. military over drug allegations. It wasn’t clear how much U.S. military business the company stands to lose.
And yeah, drugs are big business here in Afghanistan.
Which of course prompted a swift investigation by the Afghan government into wrongdoing.
In the meantime a spokesman for the ministry of transportation and chief of the Kabul International Airport strictly denied smuggling of opium from Kabul airport.
Kabul International Airport chief Mohammad Yaqoub Rassouli said the airport is equipped with modern accessories which prevents anyone to transport opium outside of the country.
Why this matters: An operation of this magnitude didn’t happen without at least the passive cooperation of folks in the Afghan government. No, I’m not now nor will I ever imply that President Karzai is involved in the drug trade. What I am saying is that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It doesn’t bode terribly well for the future transparency of that government if, when presented with facts on something like this, they circle the wagons.
2. Big Trouble in Little China.
After Escape from New York, Kurt Russell’s career never achieved the soaring heights I’m sure he imagined they would achieve. And, as Jack Burton, there’s a few things he’s having trouble understanding. Like this week in Kunduz, 10 police were killed in a suicide blast.
A relatively heavy explosion rocked northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan on Saturday evening. According to reports the incident took place after suicide bomber detonated explosives pakced in a motorcycle around 5:00 pm local time. In the meantime a spokesman for the Afghan police in northern Afghanistan Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai said at least ten Afghan security foces including counter-terrorism chief and head of the traffic department for Kunduz province have been killed
Why this matters: It’s the north, which, while it’s had its issues, is nowhere near the heart of the insurgency. Either the insurgents saw this as a vulnerability and want to make a point about security in the area, or this is the start of a very long fighting season, and an increase in these kinds of events in areas we haven’t seen them in as often previously. And, FYI, I HATE the phrase “fighting season.” So…awesome.
3. The Three Amigos.
Nope, nothing funny about the United Front meeting in Mazar-e-sharif.
Senior members of the National Front — the main political opposition coalition of the Afghan government following a joint press conference with the provincial governor for northern Balkh province of Afghanistan Ata Mohammad Noor announced to support a specified candidate introduced by the coalition for the upcoming presidential election.The National Front of Afghanistan following a statement also expressed their concerns regarding a free and fair presidential election.
The press conference was attended by head of the National Front Ahmad Zia Massound, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and former Afghan spy chief Amrullah Saleh besides Balkh governor Ata Mohammad Noor.
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq head of the Hezb-e-Wahdat Millie Afghanistan and a member of the National Coalition said they are concerned regarding the presidential election due to be organized in 2014.
Dostum, Saleh, and Mohaqiq represent the likeliest opposition group to whoever Karzai props up in these next elections.
Why this matters: While his influence is waning, this would be the horse that Dana Rohrabacher et al would back in the 2014 elections. There’s a sense in those that support Rohrabacher that we’ve somehow neglected the Northern Alliance in making sure Karzai comes to power. No, Karzai’s not perfect, far from it, but at least he’s managed to keep “war criminal” off his resume. I don’t think the American political climate will shift enough that Dostum and company would make sense again, but they’re a tad disconcerting. As anti-Taliban as they are, there’s little to no chance of a settlement if their bloc takes the throne in Kabul. And that just means a lot of hurt for Afghans.
Since it’s just more fun to let the Afghans do stuff, ISAF’s gonna transition everything, including journalists.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan are working hard to put Afghan security forces in the lead during combat missions — and now they want them to oversee journalists who want to embed in the war zone, too.
The International Security Assistance Force’s Joint Command, which handles media embeds, told POLITICO that within a matter of months, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense will begin managing requests from reporters wishing to cover the war.
“Clearly we are going to be turning that responsibility over to them,” Lt. Col. Richard Spiegel, IJC Chief of Public Affairs, said.
Why this matters: This is an army that can’t keep track of its people or its equipment. In 2012, nearly 1,000 ANA died in combat. That’s half as many Americans as have died in Afghanistan in over 10 years. Because the ANA is increasingly on the front lines. Operation Ready or Not is in full effect, and this is just another sign of what’s ahead for the Afghans: more responsibility, more decisions to make, and precious little time left to learn how to make those decisions.
5. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
I know, I’ve used it before, but it fits here, more than ever. George C. Scott’s logic here? Chilling in how close it is to the logic that runs this conflict. Because I crave a certain warping in logic, I recently did a writeup on ISAF’s “Enemy Initiated Attacks” numbers. Year-to-year? Oh hey, the number of attacks are down. The number of Afghan civilians dying due to IED attacks? Yeah, that number went up 10%. So clap yourselves on the back for a job well done…at least ISAF’s not killing ‘em, right?
Why this matters: It’s this kind of obsessive spin control that has blunted the effectiveness of the ISAF role here in Afghanistan. While there are honest actors in the ISAF chain of command, the institutional response is to make ISAF look as good as possible. Congrats, you might be more secure, but more Afghans are dying due to the insurgent’s favorite weapon, the IED. Explain to me how that’s a win?
Until next time, you stay on the sunny side!